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Will Juvenile Justice Act be amended, again?
Last Updated : 03 Jan 2017 05:26:26 PM IST
Will Juvenile Justice Act be amended, again?
Will Juvenile Justice Act be amended, again?

December or January is that time of the year when the police of every State has to meet the press to put across its achievements and its crime control records for public scrutiny.

The Maharashtra Police seems to have got a feather in its cap this time to prove that it is one of the best in the country by successfully arresting two teenagers involved in the kidnapping of a 3 year old for ransom from a Chawl in Nagpada, South Mumbai, whose body was found stuffed in a bag.
The two boys, students of a South Mumbai  confessed to the police that they had kidnapped the child Tarannum Fatema on December 5 as they were under the impression that the parents of the girl who are scrap dealers, were very rich.
Even though the child died the same day after they strangulated her with a mobile phone charger after she started bleeding due to excessive use of chloroform, the police managed to nab the culprits after 20 days,on December 25.
However the city newspapers are full of news to make it appear like a great achievement of Mumbai police.
And to reinforce this achievement the police is floating figures to prove that crimes by teenagers or juveniles is on the rise and the cases of kidnappings have gone up by 150 per cent from 11 in 2014 to 27 in 2015 as per records of the National Crime Records Research Bureau. The cases of murders by juveniles have gone up from 8 to 12 and attempt to murder from 12 to 14.
But this kind of frenzied buildup is very dangerous and needs to be looked into carefully. In reality this is a cover up and diversionary tactics to hide the inefficiency of the police.
The headlines read '150 per cent rise in kidnapping by minors' but does not say that the total crimes by juveniles has gone up from 856 to 873 that comes to just a 2 per cent rise which is hardly anything.
It is like introducing note ban by a government that has been unable to cope with problems like unemployment, price rise and communal strife!
On a serious note, this is a dangerous move as far as child rights are concerned, by quoting half truths to reduce the age of juveniles as was done in 2015 by Maneka Gandhi, to amend the Juvenile Justice Act when one of the juveniles involved in the Nirbhaya assault of 2012 was about to be released from the remand home.
Even though a panel of the Standing Committee comprising members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha which discussed the issue of reducing the age of juveniles from 18 to 16 had unanimously given a 70 page report saying that the move was not needed as there were enough provisions in the existing law.
The panel came to this conclusion after it saw presentations from Prayas and some other child friendly NGOs which had studied the proposals very deeply. However the hype created by the ill-informed media showing pictures of the parents of Nirbhaya or Jyoti Singh, demanding justice for their daughter flashed on TV sets round the clock forced even those MPs who held contrary views, to go with the amendments. Some of them admitted privately that they feared they would be lynched if they opposed the move for reducing the age of juveniles from 18 to 16.
The new Juvenile Justice Act allows a juvenile between 16 and 18 to be tried like an adult if the crime involves rape and murder. Incidentally, the media does not mention the report of the NCRB when it mentions that there has not been a single case of rape by juveniles in Mumbai between 2014 to 2015.
It is easy to understand the frenzy of the police to add more offences under the JJAct 2015 which allows trial in adult courts under adult laws. They are used to using their dirty third degree methods to extort confessions from hardened culprits and it will be so much tempting to try these on juveniles.
It also suits the lawyers, always in cohorts with the police, that the trials in adult court linger on endlessly. They know that the shortage of judges, that has been highlighted in the recent face off between the Chief Justice of India T S Thakur and the law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will allow them to seek postponement and keep the under trials in custody indefinitely till they are sure that they will be able to seek conviction.
The much-talked about trial of the convicts involved in the case proves that even if a case is being tried in fast track court the culprits are in safe custody even four years and 10 days of the incident.
On the other hand, trials in the Juvenile Justice Board are not open to public hearing and they are monitored by child rights activists constantly as per the international rules and regulations.
The best advice to get out of the present crisis and the build up to blame children (which is another word for juveniles) for the rise in crime comes from one of the toughest cops in the country Julius Ribeiro, who has been quoted as saying,"The government needs to tackle the issue on different  fronts, which would include better community policing, more committed teachers in schools, a better teacher-students ratio, social welfare measures and counselling and encouraging NGOS that focus on children's issues."

Nowhere does this statement blame the juveniles or talk about reducing their age as normal police officers suggest. This government is also very anti NGOs in general unless they are promoting a certain dogma. They are always looking for easier options which may harm the interests of children permanently, the most vulnerable section of society comprising over 50 percent of the population.

Amitabh Srivastava
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