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Juvenile justice system and child protection

By Sameena Anjum

Does this topic really can be touched? How many of us even bother to learn it? Yes, only few those who are associated one way or the other.

 

The topic relates to a very sensitive aspect confronting the modern society. The issue attracts top priority and seriousness as it relates to the well-being of most vulnerable subject.

Children are considered as the important asset of a nation and the future of every nation lie in the hands of the children. Being such important resource their protection has to be considered in every aspect by the nation they abide.

Child protection means providing a child with friendly and protective environment in the home, school, community, and society at large. Children are vulnerable group thus need a special care and protection. It is to be brought to every ones consciousness and make the people realize about the rights of the children.

The prevailing situations of Jammu and Kashmir and the conflicts in the state have led to considerable social problems across the state particularly in the Kashmir region. The people across the state including the children have witnessed the highest levels of violence and civil unrest since the insurgency erupted in 1989. In the same year, India becomes a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly. A number of rights pertaining to child care and welfare have been incorporated under the convection, like Article 25(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that childhood is entitled to Special Care and Assistance. This principle along with some other principles of the Universal Declaration relating to child was incorporated in the declaration of Rights of Child adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1959.

Further Article 23 & 24 of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights 1966, Article 10 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 made provisions for Child care. However, these principles are not binding on the state parties. Therefore, it was felt necessary to adopt a convention for Child Care (UNCRC) so as to make the states legally binding.

The United Nations General Assembly established the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in 1946 to provide assistance to the children and adolescents.

Subsequently, the Government of India enacted the Juvenile Justice Act in 1986 and ratified the UNCRC in 1992, to fulfill the standards of the convention felt a need to re-write the Law & hence the Juvenile Justice Act 2000. This old law was replaced by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015.

The criminal justice system which is applicable to adults is not considered suitable for juveniles. The Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act 1997 amended by the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2013 and Rules 2014, which had been enacted keeping in consideration all the standards, which were already prescribed in the convention of the Rights of the child, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the administration of Juvenile Justice,1985 (The Beijing Rules). Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in the country, which has separate Juvenile Justice System, and has the first ever child line service (1098 Toll free helpline for children) which was made accessible in Srinagar in 2011.

In recent years there has been an increase in the involvement of juveniles in different crimes throughout the country.

To ensure effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice System in India, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) proposed in 2006 adoption of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme. In 2009 the central government took the scheme its approval and has started the extensive task of providing children with the safe environment and protection to ensure their  development and flourish.

When we talk about Jammu and Kashmir a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and Government of India in 2013 for the implementation of child protection system and to start mission/ vehicle of ICPS in Jammu and Kashmir. The Union Ministry for Women & Child Development had its nod to the state government to constitute 22 Juvenile Justice Board (one board in each district) as well as Child Welfare Committee Section 30 of the Act and Rule 23 which deals with the Children in Need of Care and Protection. For Juvenile in Conflict with Law, Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) in every District are to be constituted, which will be handed by a Judicial Magistrate of First Class and two members (Social Workers) Section 4 of the Act and Rule 3. The constitution of the State Child Protection Society (SCPS) Rule 79 and the District Child Protection unit (DCPU) by the Department of Social Welfare, Government of Jammu and Kashmir has set the foundation for the effective implementation of the scheme in the state.

Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) is very vast and an umbrella scheme which caters to the overall protection and development of the child. The scheme provides support and various rehabilitation services; like  open shelter for urban and semi-urban Children who need care, family based non-institutional care through sponsorship, foster care, adoption and after care institution services like shelter homes, children’s home, observation home, special home, specialized services for  children with special needs are also part of child care and protection.

The purpose of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) is to enhance capacities and effectiveness of all levels, of all functionaries including administrators and services providers, members of allied system including local bodies, police, judiciary and other concerned departments of state governments to undertake responsibilities under the ICPS.

Police being the law abiders have a crucial role to play in the Juvenile Justice System as they first point of contact with the Child in untoward situation. Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) are to be set up to handle the matters concerned with children in Conflict With Law (CCL) and Children in Need of Care and Protection (CNCP).

 Special Juvenile Police Unit are to be created for apprehension of juvenile in conflict with law and to produce before the board without placing them in police lock-up or lodging them in jail. Treatment of juvenile by the police under Rule 12 should be treated with sympathetically. The policemen are to abstain from inflicting corporal punishment on the children on streets. The common practice of policemen, which is seen is beating or slapping street children or rag pickers should be discontinued and the juvenile shall not be taken to juvenile justice board in police marked vehicles. Juvenile offenders have to be treated differently from hardened criminals. The way a juvenile criminal is handled by the police can sometimes determine whether the juvenile would grow up as a normal citizen or turn into a hardened criminal. The police officer handling a juvenile in conflict with law must give to Juvenile the impression of sincere friend and should try to reform him rather than as an officer imposing punishment on him.

The delinquent juvenile is to be handed over to juvenile welfare officer as early as possible. Even when a juvenile is to be taken into custody, it should be ensured that no un-necessary humiliation or restrain his caste. No such child should be handcuffed or fettered. The officers while handling or escorting a juvenile should not wear police uniform

When a police officer comes in contact with a juvenile he must place the child with the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU), the Special Juvenile Police or the designated Child or Juvenile Welfare Officer handle a child alleged to be in conflict with law is apprehended by the police, he/she will be placed under the charge of, who shall produce the child before the Juvenile Justice Board within twenty-four hours of his apprehended, along with a report explaining the reasons for the child being apprehended by the police.

 As per Annual Report ‘Crime in India  submitted by the State of Jammu & Kashmir to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) a total of 198 cases were registered against juveniles in  J&K in which 319 juveniles were apprehended during 2016. On August 15, 2018, a Second State Roundtable Conference on implementation of Jammu &Kashmir Juvenile Justice System held, were data was revealed in which as many as 1,341 cases are children in conflict with law.

Talking about my district, the present information regarding Juvenile cases pending before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate as on August 10, there are total 115 juvenile cases, 89 cases disposed off and 26 cases subjudiced .

I am hopeful that the functioning of competent authorities or statutory bodies, like Child Welfare Committee, Juvenile Justice Board and Special Juvenile Police Units are understanding problem relating to the children in need of care, protection and best interest of child is going satisfactory. Still a general awareness is very much required to fulfill the scheme as the government is working very hard and in turn the general public needs to cooperate with the department. For proper implementation of Juvenile Justice System we must build effective linkage and cooperation with stakeholders i.e. police department, educational department, health department, labour& employment and various government agencies, in associated with child rights groups concerned with child protection issues.

(The writer is Legal/ Probationary Officer, (Nodal Officer), Integrated Child Protection Scheme,Ganderbal)