Draft Model Rules for Juvenile Justice Act Released

A statement released by the Ministry for Women and Child Development said that these draft rules are based on the philosophy that children need to be reformed and reintegrated into society.

Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. Credit: PTI.

Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. Credit: PTI.

New Delhi: Maneka Gandhi, the Union Minister of Women and Child Development, released draft model rules under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, on May 25 for comments and suggestions from stakeholders.

The act, which came into force from January 15 this year, is a comprehensive law that contains provisions for children in conflict with the law as well as those in need of care and protection. When it came into force, the ministry had said that a committee of experts would be constituted to draft the rules of the act. The issue had shot into the limelight in the wake of the violent rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in December 2012. One of the perpetrators of the crime was juvenile.

When the act was implemented, several experts had questioned its harsh provisions for juvenile offenders. They had argued that treating 16- to 18-year-olds as adults when they committed heinous crimes would amount to a crime against them. However, calls have also been growing for stricter punishments to juvenile offenders, particularly to repeat offenders who violate victims’ rights to life and property. The draft rules released by the ministry seek to strike a balance between these concerns.

Child-friendly procedures

The draft includes special provisions that have been made for children aged 16-18 years who commit heinous offences.

The draft rules have prescribed detailed ‘child-friendly’ procedures for the police, the juvenile justice board (JJB) and for children’s courts. The latter two are required to adhere to the principle of the best interests of the child and her rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The rules also demand that every state government should set up at least one “place of safety” in the state for the rehabilitation of such children. They further prescribe the provision of extensive services as well as regular monitoring.

The draft policy states that, per the spirit of the act, keeping children in institutional care has to be a last-resort measure. Therefore, the act prescribes various measures for the de-institutionalisation of children, including adoption, foster care and sponsorship. Detailed rules have been provided to facilitate these measures. “Various models of group foster care were reviewed and studied before drafting the relevant provisions in the Rules. In addition to these, roles and responsibilities of various functionaries responsible to provide care and protection to children have been re-defined to bring clarity,” the ministry said in a statement.

Inclusion of new offences

The draft also includes new offences committed against children that had not been adequately covered under other laws – including the sale and procurement of children for any purpose including illegal adoption; corporal punishment in child care institutions; giving children intoxicating liquor, narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances or tobacco products; use of children by militant or adult groups; offences against children with disabilities; and the abduction of children. And for the effective implementation of these provisions, the draft rules provide for child-friendly procedures for reporting, recording and trial. They propose every police station should have child-friendly infrastructure and that a special children’s room be designated in every court complex.

Another key area covered by the draft is the mandatory registration of all child-care institutions and punishment in case of noncompliance. It gives statutory status to the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), enabling it to fulfil its function more effectively.

These draft model rules repeal the Model Rules, 2007, and are based on the philosophy that children need to be reformed and reintegrated into society, according to the ministry, which also added that the rules are cognisant of the developmental needs of children. These rules are in the best interests of the child and incorporate child-friendly procedures across the board, a statement added.

The ministry has also stated that in order to facilitate the quick and smooth adoption of children, the entire process has been made transparent as well as brought online. “Simplified procedures have been laid down for adoption by relatives. Child care institutions are required to develop linkages with Specialised Adoption Agencies so that the pool of adoptable children can be increased and these children can be brought into the adoption process,” it said.

Forms to facilitate provisions 

As part of the provisions to enhance the reformative part of the juvenile justice programme, a large number of forms have also been drafted to standardise and simplify prescribed procedures. The ministry said that a total of 49 forms have been drafted – more than double the number of forms included in the Model Rules, 2007. These include separate individual care forms for children in need of care and protection and those in conflict with the law as well as forms for social background reports by the police, which have been added in order to assist the police in recording information about children.

Similarly, there is now a form for the review of children in the age group of 16-18 years who are placed in “places of safety.” This has been developed to assist in the proper review of the progress of the child and also to ensure that children are provided with adequate services for their rehabilitation. “Several other forms related to periodic report by probation officer, case monitoring sheet, comprehensive psycho-social report, rehabilitation card, etc. will go a long way in better understanding and implementation of the Act and Rules framed thereunder,” the Ministry said.

The multidisciplinary committee which drafted the model rules includes a senior judge, advocates, members of the Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committee, representatives of state governments, representatives of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, a mental health expert and civil society organisations working in the field of child protection. The ministry has put out the draft rules on its website for suggestions and comments. People can send these to [email protected] until June 10.