A child in conflict with law cannot be kept in jail or police lockup under any circumstances: SC

The Supreme Court issued notices to the UP State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, against the manner in which children in conflict with law are being dealt with by the concerned state authorities.

The order was passed in an application moved by Amicus Curiae Aparna Bhat, in the case titled In Re: Exploitation of Children in Orphanages in State of Tamil Nadu v. Union of India, calling attention to the illegal acts of UP and Delhi police who are alleged to have detained and tortured minors in police stations.

Bhat had approached the court stating that despite explicit directions of the court dated December 5, 2018, children are treated poorly by the state authorities, bordering on severe abuse in many child care institutions across the country.

After hearing the petition, the division bench has asked the state commissions, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the Union of India to look into the matter and submit their reports within three weeks.

Rules applied by the court:

  • Section 10 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 states that a juvenile in conflict with law should be placed under the charge of a special juvenile police unit or the designed police officer and should be produced before the Board within 24 hours and in no case shall a juvenile in conflict with law be placed in a police lockup or lodged in a jail.
  • Section 12 of the JJ Act, states that bail is the rule in case of juveniles. The section provides that a child in conflict with law should be released on bail with or without surety or placed under the supervision of a probation officer or under the care of any fit person. Even if bail is not granted, the child cannot be kept in jail or police lockup and has to be kept in observation home or place of safety.

The bail is denied only in cases where the court feels that the release of the child is likely to bring him/her into the association with known criminals or expose the child to moral, physical or psychological danger or where the release of the child would defeat the ends of justice.

What is the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000?

To protect and safeguard the interest of children (below 18 years) against exploitation and child abuse, the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th November, 1989 adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child wherein a set of standards to be adhered to by all State parties in securing the best interests of the child has been prescribed. The Convention laid emphasis on social re-integration of child victims, to the maximum possible extent without resorting to judicial proceedings. The Government of India, having ratified the Convention on 11th December, 1992 redrafted the existing law relating to juveniles in 2000 keeping in view the standards prescribed in the Conventions of the Rights of the Child. The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was accordingly repealed and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 56 of 2000 was enacted by the Parliament and came into force on 30th December, 2000.

The Act 56 of 2000 is a comprehensive piece of legislation consisting of 70 sections divided into five chapters. Chapter I consisting of three sections is preliminary chapter. Section 2 defines the various terms used in the Act, Chapter 2 (Sections 4 to 28) is titled as “Juveniles in Conflict with Law” instead of “Delinquent Juveniles” as provided in Chapter 4 of the (repealed) Juvenile Justice Act, 1986. Chapter 3 in Sections 29 to 39 provide for constitution of Child Welfare Committee (Section 29).  Children’s Home (Section 34) and Shelter Homes (Section 37) to look after the interests of the children in the need of care and protection. To monitor proper functioning of these institutes, Section 36 provides for social auditing by Central and State Governments. A separate Chapter 4 (Sections 40 to 45) is devoted to Rehabilitation and Social Integration of Children by implementation of various schemes, such as adoption, foster care, sponsorship and sending the child to an after care organization (Section 40). Chapter 5 (in Sections 46 to 70) deals with miscellaneous provisions.

Who is a child in conflict with law?

Section 2(k) of the Act, 56 of 2000 has widened the scope of the term “juvenile in conflict with law” in place of “delinquent juvenile” for a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an “offence” as provided in section 2(e) of the (repealed) Juvenile Justice Act, 1986.

Child in conflict with law refers to any child who is below the age of 18 years and encounters criminal justice system for offences committed by him or on suspicion of commission.

Under the Indian Penal Code a child at 12 years of age attains full responsibility for his or her deeds and he or she is liable under criminal law to the same extent as an adult criminal whereas nothing is an offence which is done by a child under 7 years of age.

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