Child rights

Seven things about the new Juvenile Justice Bill you should know

The Juvenile Justice Bill, which is likely to come up for discussion in the current Parliamentary session, could only end up worsening the crime situation.

1.  If a 16-year-old boy, and a girl aged between 16 and 18 are in love and happen to express it through more than texts, calls and flowers, the boy could be booked under charges ranging from molestation to rape under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012.

2.   After the 10th board exams, some friends organise a party, just like in the movies, with music, booze and some of those so-called happy drugs. The police decide to visit because of the loud music. All the teenagers at the party could be sent to an adult jail for seven years or more for violating the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

3.  If a bunch of boys get wild and get involved in a fight that result in blood and broken bones, an admonition from their parents or suspension from school won’t be the only consequences. The new Juvenile  Justice Bill will seek put the boys in an adult jail for assault and causing injury. Depending on the severity of the fight, they could be in for 12 years.

4.  If a student brings his father's weapon to school on a dare and gets found out, there's more than suspension waiting for him. He could do to an adult prison under the Arms Act.

5.    Violating privacy, sending lewd messages, obscene photos, texts and videos are crimes covered under the Information Technology Act, and are punishable with imprisonment of up to two years. This is another route to an adult prison for those young people who engage in cyber bullying and harassment.

6.  The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill is being proposed as the one-stop solution to deterring juveniles from committing serious crimes.  It proposes to send juvenile offenders (16-18 age group) to adult prisons when convicted of such crimes. However, studies, data and recent developments in other countries show clearly that sending children to adult prisons actually results in more crime and criminals. In the US, studies have shown that lowering the age at which a child can be tried as an adult is actually counter-productive. After all, adults prisons are nothing but crime schools for children.

7. India’s existing  Juvenile Justice Act is being changed in the aftermath of the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case because the media reported endlessly the lie that the juvenile involved in the case was the "most brutal" even though the investigating officer of the case Anil Sharma insists that this was not so. Later in 2013, the Juvenile Justice Board also recorded that there was nothing in the statements of Nirbhaya or her friend that suggested that the juvenile was the most brutal. For more information on the new Bill, read more here.

Valay Singh is a child rights activist.

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