Hit and run case
The recent hit and run case by a 17-year-old boy who allegedly knocked dead a man with his father’s Mercedes has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 of IPC and has been granted bail by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) on the grounds that he has to appear for various undergraduate entrance exams, including one for a law course as he had missed certain exams because of his stay in observation home after his arrest.
If found guilty, the juvenile faces two years of confinement in an observation home on charges that include sections 304 A (causing death by rash or negligent act), 279 (driving on a public way so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life) and 337 (causing hurt by an act which endangers human life) of the IPC.
The Second UN Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders in 1960 stated that juvenile delinquency should be understood as the commission of an act, which when committed by an adult above a prescribed age would constitute an offence in law. The Sixth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders held in Venezuela in 1980 discussed further and in detail the problem of juvenile delinquency. They decided that there should be the Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice.
Every child has its human rights and they should not be denied to it by anybody. Hence, they said that there should be laws to protect the right of the children. Consequent to it, it was accepted that special attention should be given to the steps initiated to prevent delinquency among children and also to homeless and street children in the urban setting. The need for giving special attention to youth criminality was also given due importance and emphasis. The nature of youth criminality in semi-urban and rural areas was considered. Further, the following areas were discussed at the meeting at Beijing (May 14 to 18, 1985) which examined the Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice.
A ‘child’ is defined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 7 as a person under the age of 18. This includes infancy, early childhood, middle childhood and adolescents. The UN Convention on Rights of the Child,1989 draws attention to four sets of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of every child. These are:
- Right to survival: Which includes the right to life, the highest attainable standard of health, nutrition, and adequate standards of living. It also includes the right to a name and a nationality.
- Right to protection: Which includes freedom from all forms of exploitation, abuse, inhuman or degrading treatment, and neglect including the right to special protection in situations of emergency and armed conflicts.
- Right to development: Which includes the right to education, support for early childhood development and care, social security, and the right to leisure, recreation and cultural activities.
- Right to participation: Which includes respect for the views of the child, freedom of expression, access to appropriate information, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The Convention provides the legal basis for initiating action to ensure the rights of children in society.
Juvenile Justice (Care And Protection Of Children) Act, 2000
The Act is a central Act, which came into force on April 1, 2001, throughout the country. It is based on
- provisions of the Indian constitution
- United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child, 1989
- United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985 (the Beijing Rules)
- United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, 1990.
The Juvenile Justice Act, in its preamble itself signifies the need of the child care by providing that it is an Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to juveniles in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection, by providing for proper care, protection and treatment by catering to their development needs, and by adopting a child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposition of matters in the best interest of children and for their ultimate rehabilitation through various institutions established under this enactment. Recently the exhaustive amendments of 2006, and rules framed in the year 2007 is creditworthy as it incorporates many aspects regarding juveniles.
The judiciary in India plays a very important role and has passed many significant judgements in favour of child rights.
Sheela Barse v Union of India, The Supreme Court issued directions to the state government to set up necessary observation homes where children accused of an offence could be lodged`1111111111, pending investigation and trial will be expedited by juvenile courts.
Sheela Barse v. Secretary, children Aid Society, The Supreme Court commented upon setting up dedicated juvenile courts and special juvenile court officials and the proper provision of care and protection of children in observation Homes.
Vishal Jeet v Union of India, The Supreme Court issued appropriate directions on a PIL to the State Governments and all Union Territories for eradicating the evil of child prostitution and for evolving programmes for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of the young fallen victims.
M.C. Mehta v State of Tail Nadu, Supreme Court pronounced upon the constitutional perspective of the abolition of Child labour and issued appropriate guidelines to the Government of India with respect to compulsory education, health, nutrition, etc of the child labourers.
Sakshi v Union of India , Supreme Court directed the government/ Law Commission to conduct a study and submit a report on the means of curbing child abuse.
Does this justify the Juvenile Crime!
Though the crime was not done intentionally, as a matter of fact, it was a case of ‘repeated offence’ by the defendant but it led to the loss of life of an innocent man due to negligent and rash driving which is irrevocable. With regards to enforcement, in every police station, at least one officer, not below the rank of assistant sub-inspector, may be designated as the Child Welfare Police Officer to exclusively deal with children either as victims or perpetrators, in coordination with the police and Non-Governmental Organizations of our country.
Though in my view the Act is a forward-looking and comprehensive enactment in the effort to reduce the Juvenile Crime rate by making it mandatory to set up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district and inclusion of at least one woman member each in the committee; It is also noteworthy that India is the only nation to impose harsh penalty on sale of Tobacco to minors. In spite of the above efforts, it has still a long way to go.