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Understanding the Process of Trying Juveniles as Adults in Court

Context:

The National Commission for Protection of Children (NCPCR) has recently issued guidelines for conducting a preliminary assessment by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) under Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (JJ Act, 2015). This preliminary assessment is to ascertain whether a juvenile can be tried as an adult.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Preliminary assessment has to determine four aspects
  2. Process for Trying a Child as an Adult in Court
  3. Responsibilities of the Board in the Preliminary Assessment Process
  4. About Juvenile Justice Board
  5. About NCPCR

Preliminary assessment has to determine four aspects:

Physical capacity of the child: 

  • To determine the child’s ‘locomotor’ abilities and capacities, particularly with regard to gross motor functions such as walking, running, lifting, throwing…such abilities as would be required to engage in most antisocial activities.

Mental capacity: 

  • To determine the child’s ability to make social decisions and judgments.
  • It also directs assessments pertaining to mental health disorders, substance abuse, and life skills deficits.

Circumstances in which the offence was allegedly committed: 

  • Psychosocial vulnerabilities of the child. This is to include life events, any trauma, abuse, and mental health problems, stating that the offence behaviour is a cumulative consequence of a lot of other circumstances.

Ability to understand the consequences of the alleged offence: 

  • To determine the child’s knowledge or understanding of the alleged offence’s social, interpersonal and legal consequences.
  • These include what others will say or perceive him, how it might affect his personal relationships and the knowledge of relevant laws, respectively.
  • It also states that the experts must be given an optimal opportunity to interact with the child to build a rapport.
  •  Experts can be from the field of child psychology and psychiatry.
  • It also states they must undergo regular training. Additionally, a copy of the assessment must be given to the child and a legal aid counsel must be present during the assessment. it must be within three months of the child being produced before the Board.
  • Other reports that the Board is to rely on include the Social Investigation Report, Social Background Report an Individual Care Plan, statements of witnesses and interaction with parents, guardians, school staff, peer groups and neighbours.

Process for Trying a Child as an Adult in Court

  • Offence categorization: The JJ Act classifies offenses committed by children into petty, serious, and heinous offenses.
  • Preliminary assessment: Section 15 of the JJ Act mandates a preliminary assessment by the Board if a child above 16 years of age is alleged to have committed a heinous offense. The assessment covers the child’s mental and physical capacity to commit the crime, their ability to understand the consequences of their actions, and the circumstances surrounding the offense.
  • Board order: If the Board decides, after the preliminary assessment, that the child should be tried as an adult, Section 18 (3) of the Act permits the transfer of the case to the Children’s Court with jurisdiction over such offenses.
  • Objective: The primary purpose of the preliminary assessment is to determine whether a child between the ages of 16 and 18 should be tried as an adult in cases involving heinous offenses.

Responsibilities of the Board in the Preliminary Assessment Process

  • Conduct preliminary assessment: The Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) is responsible for conducting the preliminary assessment to determine whether a child between the ages of 16 and 18 should be tried as an adult in cases involving heinous offenses.
  • Provide order copy: The JJB must provide a copy of the order to the child, their family, and their counsel.
  • Seek expert assistance: If the JJB does not have a member with a degree in child psychology or psychiatry, the Board must take the assistance of psychologists or experts who have experience working with children.
  • Provide legal aid counsel: The child must be provided with a legal aid counsel through the District Legal Services Authority, who should be present during the preliminary assessment.
  • Mandate expert training: Experts who assist the JJB must undergo training related to Section 15 of the JJ Act, 2015.
  • Analyze social reports: During the preliminary assessment, the Board and experts must analyze the Social Investigation Report (SIR) prepared by the Probation officer or Child Welfare Officer or any social worker, or a Social Background Report (SBR) prepared after interaction with the child or their family.

About Juvenile Justice Board:

  • Juveniles accused of a crime or detained for a crime are brought before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 (amended in 2006).
  • The aim of JJB is to hold a child culpable for their criminal activity, not through punishment, but counselling the child to understand their actions and persuade them away from criminal activities in the future.
Structure :
  • The JJB consists of judicial magistrate of the first class and two social workers, at least one of whom should be a woman.
  • JJB are meant to resolve cases within a four month period.
  • Most circumstances the juvenile can be released on bail by the JJB.
  • The JJB is a child-friendly space that should not be intimidating or overwhelming for the child.

About NCPCR

  • It is an Indian statutory body that was established in 2007 under an Act of Parliament – the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 – and works under the auspices of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD).
  • Its mandate is to ensure that all laws, policies, programmes, and administrative systems conform to the vision of children’s rights (ages 0 to 18 years) as enunciated in the Indian Constitution and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • The Commission envisions a rights-based approach that pervades national-state-local policies and programmes.
  • As a result, the Commission envisions the state playing an indispensable role in ensuring o Children and their well-being, o Strong institution-building processes, o Respect for local bodies and decentralisation at the community level, and greater social concern in this direction.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2024
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