Critically discuss the arguments that the recently passed Juvenile Justice Act 2015 is inconsistent with the Constitutional provisions and international child rights.
The arguments against the recently passed law are as follows:
- The new law violates article 14 (right to equality) because two juvenile’s offenders who committed serious crimes would be treated differently. The law says that a child of 16-18 years age, who commits a lesser offence (a serious offence), may be tried as an adult if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years. What if he is apprehended between 18 to 21 years? The law says that if the age (at the time of apprehension) is below 21 years, he would be treated as juvenile (depending on JJB Report) and the punishment would be three years in special home. If the age is above 21 years at the date of apprehension, he would be tried as an adult and imprisonment would be 3-7 years.
- Article 15(3) of the Constitution recognises woman and children as “specially vulnerable” sections and empowers the state to make special provisions for their betterment only. Some argue that the provisions of JJ law cannot claim legitimacy from Article 15(3).
- Further, it is argued that the law violates the spirit of Article 20(1) that a person cannot be subjected to greater punishment than what would have been applicable to him under the law. Under JJ Act, it is possible that the juvenile gets greater punishment if he is apprehended at a later date.
It is argued that the penalties for different offences under the law are not in proportion to the gravity of the offence. For example, giving a tobacco product to a child attracts more punishment than the act of child trafficking. Finally, as per the UNCRC, every child below the age of 18 should be treated equally and are not to be tried as adults. The new act does not comply with the requirements of the convention.