Critically examine the obligations of the Juvenile Justice Boards to deal with 'children in conflict with the law' in the enacted Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Published: February 4, 2016

The JJ Act 2015 has put the duty on Juvenile Justice Boards of deciding whether a minor above 16 years involved in heinous crimes is to be sent in a observation home or tried in a regular court. The Board will conduct a preliminary assessment and decide in a period of 3 months in this regard. There are several practical issues with these provisions. Firstly, due to lack of specific guidelines, it would be an uphill task for the JJBs to ascertain if a minor involved in heinous offences can be tried as an adult. Secondly, although JJBs have psychologists and sociologists on board, there are no specific indicators to gauge the mental maturity of an offender. Thirdly, though the time limit to make such decision has been extended from one month (in 2014 bill) to three months. Yet, looking at the way JJBs would work, it is possible that JJBs may send wrong juveniles to adult courts. Fourthly, the Board’s assessments are subject to judicial review and this might set off  further litigation over whether one 16-year-old was let off lightly or another was wrongly sent to an adult court.  Fifthly, such decisions might be influenced by the prevailing public mood in case such a heinous crime (like 2012 Delhi Rape) repeats. In conclusion, the act has put the onus of suspect’s juvenility to the JJB.

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