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CHILDLINE India Foundation - JJ Act - Introduction

CHILDLINE 1098 SERVICE » Strategic Policy Initiative » JJ-Act » Introduction


The first central legislation on Juvenile Justice was passed in 1986, by the Union Parliament, thereby providing a uniform law on juvenile justice for the entire country. Prior to this law each state had its own enactment on juvenile justice with there being differences in the way juveniles were treated by different state legal systems. The first uniform law on juvenile justice however did not result in any dramatic improvement in the treatment of juveniles. The law continued to provoke a lot of concern, in human rights circles, pertaining particularly to the way juveniles were treated in detention centers designated as special homes and juvenile homes.

"So long as little children are allowed to suffer, there is no true love in this world."

Justice is everybody's right. Children's justice is to be ensured by adults because they can not lobby for themselves. According to the 2001 census India is estimated to have more than 400 million children below the age of 18 and we need a separate group of social workers, politicians & professionals to look after their interests.

Following closer international attention to the issue of juvenile justice in the late 1990's, the issue moved to the center stage even in domestic circles with a number of consultations held on juvenile justice both nationally and regionally. The combination of a growing focus on the issue of juvenile justice combined by the pressure faced by the government to submit a Country Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child outlining concrete achievements, seems to have inspired the Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment go in for drafting a new law on Juvenile Justice, the final outcome of which was the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of children) Act, 2000

Background of Juvenile Justice

The Constitution on India provides the basis for the legal framework to protect children, whom it recognizes as a discrete group with identifiable rights and needs. The constitution mandates child protection as a special provision in Article 15 (3). Article 39 (E) & (F) provides protection of children's healthy development. Article 24 prevents children from working in hazardous situations below 14 years. Article 45 provides the right of children for free and compulsory education and Article 47 prohibits the consumption of liquor and intoxicating drugs, except for medical purposes. Moreover, Indian Penal Code (2005) provides protection of children from sexual abuse in sections 354, 375 and 509, selling of minors for prostitution in sections 366, 366A, 366B and 372, buying minors for the purpose of prostitution in section 373 and non-consensual assault of male child in section 377.

A kind of criminal or quasi-criminal jurisdiction was provided under the Juvenile Justice Act (Government of India (GOI), 1986), covering proceedings for both the categories of children, viz., delinquent juveniles as well as the neglected juveniles. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1989) provides elaborate catalogue of children's rights that can be grouped into four categories: Right to Survival, Right to Protection, Right to Participation and Right to Development. The Juvenile Justice Act (JJA) (GOI, 1986) was inadequate as non-institutional methods such as family and school based preventive services to deal with juvenile delinquency were neither specified nor explored. Moreover, the Act did not directly deal with child sexual abuse. Despite the law, children were taken for interrogation overnight, detained, tortured and released in the morning. So, the Juvenile Justice Act (GOI, 1986) got replaced by the most comprehensive law to deal with children's right, Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act (GOI, 2000).