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The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

January 26, 2024by canonsphere0
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Analysis by: ASHAFAK HUSEN 

(Bachelor of Law, from: D.D.U. Gorakhpur, University, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh 2023)


The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, is a landmark legislation in India that fundamentally redefines the country’s approach to juvenile justice. Enacted on January 15, 2016, this act is a comprehensive legal framework designed to address the rights, care, protection, and rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law and those in need of care and protection. It supersedes the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, of 2000, reflecting a significant evolution in India’s response to juvenile offenders and vulnerable children.

At its core, this act embodies a philosophy that strives to strike a balance between accountability for juvenile offenders and the recognition of their unique vulnerabilities. It represents a harmonious blend of international standards, constitutional principles, and a progressive vision of juvenile justice. The 2015 act embodies the principle of restorative justice, emphasizing the reintegration of juvenile offenders into society while ensuring their rights and dignity are upheld.

The history of juvenile justice in India can be traced back to the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986, which laid the groundwork for a separate legal framework dedicated to juveniles. However, over the years, there was a growing realization that the 2000 act, which had replaced the earlier one, required significant amendments to address emerging challenges, especially concerning juvenile offenders involved in heinous crimes.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, introduces several vital amendments, notably allowing for the trial of juveniles aged 16 to 18 years for heinous crimes in regular courts, a provision that had generated substantial debate and discussion. It also extends the preliminary evaluation period for children in conflict with the law, reinforces their right to education and employment, and introduces provisions for the expungement of records.

This act not only provides a robust legal framework but also establishes institutional mechanisms such as Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees to ensure the effective implementation of its provisions. It serves as a testament to India’s commitment to child rights, emphasizing rehabilitation, reintegration, and the well-being of its youngest citizens.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the historical context, objectives, important provisions, significance, criticisms, and limitations of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

History of the Juvenile Justice Act

The journey towards The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, reflects a significant evolution in India’s approach to juvenile justice. It is a product of decades of legal and social reform, driven by changing perceptions of child rights and juvenile offenders’ treatment.

The foundation for juvenile justice in India was laid with the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986. This act recognized the unique vulnerabilities of children and aimed to provide a separate legal framework for dealing with juveniles in conflict with the law. It introduced the concept of a “juvenile” and emphasized rehabilitation and reformation.

However, over time, it became evident that the 1986 act had limitations, particularly in dealing with serious crimes committed by juveniles. The need for reform gained momentum following the gruesome 2012 Delhi gangrape and murder case, where one of the accused was a juvenile. Public outcry and demands for stricter punishment for juvenile offenders led to a critical reevaluation of India’s juvenile justice laws.

In response to these concerns, the government proposed substantial amendments to the existing legislation. The proposed changes sought to lower the age limit for treating juveniles as adults in cases of heinous crimes, a move that generated heated debates and divided public opinion.

Amidst this debate and discussions, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, was introduced in Parliament. After being passed by both houses, it received the President’s assent on December 31, 2015, and subsequently came into effect on January 15, 2016, as The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

The 2015 act incorporated several amendments, including the contentious provision allowing the trial of juveniles aged 16 to 18 years for heinous crimes in regular courts. It also emphasized the importance of rehabilitation and reintegration and introduced measures to protect the rights and dignity of children in conflict with the law.

This act represents the culmination of a long and complex journey in India’s legal history, balancing the need for accountability and punishment with the recognition of children’s unique vulnerabilities and their potential for reformation and reintegration into society.

Object of the Act

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, encapsulates several core objectives that underscore its significance in the Indian legal landscape. This act was enacted to comprehensively address the issues concerning children, both as victims and offenders, in a manner that aligns with international standards and evolving social perspectives.

First and foremost, the primary objective of the act is to provide care, protection, and support for children. It recognizes that children are vulnerable and need special safeguards, particularly when they come into conflict with the law or face challenging circumstances. The act ensures that children’s rights are upheld and their best interests are paramount in all decisions.

Furthermore, the act aims to strengthen the juvenile justice system by promoting a child-centric approach. It seeks to strike a balance between accountability and the principle of reformation by delineating different processes for juveniles and adults in conflict with the law. The act underscores the need to rehabilitate and reintegrate juvenile offenders into society, emphasizing their potential for positive change.

In essence, the object of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, is to create a legal framework that safeguards the rights and well-being of children, facilitates their rehabilitation, and promotes a just and humane approach in dealing with children in conflict with the law. It signifies India’s commitment to international conventions and standards related to child rights and juvenile justice.

Important Provisions of the Act

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, represents a comprehensive legislative framework aimed at addressing the unique needs and vulnerabilities of children, both as victims and offenders. While retaining the core principles of the earlier Acts, this legislation introduces significant amendments and provisions to enhance the juvenile justice system in India. Here are some important provisions, both amended and new:

1. PURPOSE OF THE ACT This Act aims to consolidate and amend laws  relating to children in conflict with laws and children  requiring care and protection. This Act aims to  provide basic needs, proper care, protection,  development, treatment, social re-integration etc. by  adopting child friendly approach in disposing of  matters keeping in mind the best interest of children.  The Act also has provisions like adoption, childcare  homes quantum of punishment to children in conflict  with law etc. 
2. EXTENT Act extends to whole of India 
3. SECTION- 3  PRINCIPLES TO BE  FOLLOWED The central government, state government and other  agencies shall presume the child to be innocent and  free from criminal intent, moreover state shall  uphold dignity and worth of individuals, the child  will have right to be heard and the primary and the  primary objective would be best interest of child,  family also has responsibility towards te child  including biological, adoptive, foster parents. Also,  the safety of the child and positive measures for  wellbeing are considered. Also, no wave of any right  of child is permissible and no discrimination against  the child on any grounds, child privacy and  confidentiality throughout the judicial process. The  child is to be placed in government institutions as a  last resort, repatriation and restoration with family is  to be ensured. A fresh start is to be given to the child  and all past records of juvenile justice be erased in  special circumstances. children in conflict in law  would not be made to go through judicial process  unless it is in interest of child or whole society, basic  principles of natural justice are also to be upheld.
Chapter III
4. SECTION-4 JUVENILE JUSTICE  BOARDState Government to constitute Juvenile Justice  Board (hereafter referred as J.J. Board) for each  district. Bord to comprise of JM 1st Class and 2  social workers. A person with a past record of  Human Rights or child rights cannot be appointed  member. Board to discharge functions relating to  children in conflict with law.
5. SECTION- 5 PERSON CEASING TO BE  JUVENILE DURING  INQUIRY When an enquiry has been initiated and during its  course the child turns 18 orders would be passed by  JJ board irrespective of this Act. 
6. SECTION-6 PLACEMENT OF PERSON  WHO COMMITED  OFFENDED BELOW THE  AGE OF 18 YEARS BUT  TURNED 18.Any person who has reached 18 years of age and  had committed an offence when below 18 such  person would be treated as child. 
7. SECTION- 8  POWER, FUNCTION,  RESPONSIBILTY OF JJ  BOARDPOWER- To exclusively deal with the proceedings  relating to children in conflict with law in its  jurisdiction. FUNCTION & RESPONSIBILITIES a) Ensure informed participation of child, parent  or guardian in every step of process. b) Ensure protection of child rights in every  step. c) Provide legal aid. d) Direct social investigation and get its report  within 1 5 days (about 2 weeks) to ascertain  circumstances in which offence was  committed.  e) Adjudicate cases of children in conflict with  law. f) Inspection of residential facilities of children  in conflict with law at least once a month. g) Direct police to register FIR & investigate  offences against children. h) Inspection of jails to check whether any child  is there. i) Any other function as prescribed. 
8. SECTION- 10 APPREHENSION OF  CHILD IN CONFLICT  WITH LAWAfter apprehension by police the child is handed  over to juvenile police unit or child welfare officer,  who produces the child before JJ Board in 24hrs.
9. SECTION- 12 BAILIf a non bailable offence committed by a child  conflict with the law, they shall be released on bail  but would be sent to childcare facility/observation  home if reasonable grounds for believing that child  can meet criminals, or it is necessary for justice.
10. Section-14 Inquiry by JJ BoardInquiry to be conducted against child in conflict with  law as per Section 17 & 18 of the Act. Inquiry to be  completed within 4 months with a maximum  extension of 2 months. In cases of heinous offences  under sec 15 assessment to be completed in 3  months. 
11. Section-15  Preliminary assessment of  heinous offences Alleged commission of heinous if done by child  below 16 years Board make assessment with regard  mental & physical capacity to commit offence,  ability to understand consequences and  circumstances. If board is satisfied that matter can be  disposed by it the board would conduct the matter as  per summons case of CrPC. 
12. SECTION 17 ORDERS REGARDING  CHILD FOUND NOT IN  CONFLICT WITH LAW If the board is satisfied that the child has not  committed any offence the board will pass the order  with that effect. The board can also pass orders for  appropriate measures for the protection and care of  child.
13. SECTION-18 ORDERS REGARDING  CHILD FOUND IN  CONFLICT WITH LAWIf child is below 16 years irrespective of crime being  serious or petty  a) Allow the child to go home after advice or  admonition following appropriate  counselling to the child and parents or  guardians.  b) Order child to participate in group  counselling sessions or community service.  c) Order parents, the child or the guardian to  pay a fine. d) The child can be released on probation and  kept in supervision for 3 years.  e) Direct the child to be sent to a special home  for a period not exceeding three years for  reformation. f) Moreover, the board can order that the child  attends school, gets vocational training,  therapy, de-addiction etc.
14. SECTION-19 POPWERS OF  CHILDREN’S COURT After receipt of assessment JJ board under section 15  children’s court would decide  a) Need for trial of child as adult as per CrPC  and pass appropriate orders as per section 21  of this Act.
b) That children’s court shall ensure final order  includes rehabilitation plan.  c) Children’s court shall ensure that child found  guilty would be sent to place of safety untll  attaining 21 years of age. Thereafter he can  be transferred to jail. 
15. SECTION 20 CHILD COMPLETED 21  YEARS OF AGE & YET T  COMPLETE TERMWhen 21 years has been completed but term not  completed follow up assessment by probation officer  to evaluate reformative changes in child and whether  he ca be let back into the society. On that report children’s court can direct release with  conditions or decide that rest of term shall be  completed in jail.
16. SECTION 21 ORDER THAT MAY NOT  BE PASSED No child in conflict with law shall be sentenced to  death or life imprisonment without the possibility  of release for any offence.
17. Section 27 to 30 Child Welfare Committee Powers & Functions The State Government may by notification constitute  one or more Child Welfare Committee in every  district. The committee shall have the authority to  exclusively deal and dispose of cases for care,  protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation  of children in need and care of protection and basic  needs. The committee also looks into aspects like  foster care, rehabilitation, restoration of children.  The committee moreover declares children to be  orphan, abandoned and surrendered and legally free  for adoption after due enquiry. The committee  further takes cognizance of cases of children  requiring care and protection suo motu.
18. Section 31 to 38 PROCEDURE IN  RELATION TO  CHILDREN IN NEED OF  CARE AND PROTECTIONChild in need of care and protection is to be  produced before CWC within 24hrs.child separated  from guardian is to be mandatorily reported to the  CWC within 24hrs. Non reporting of such child is an  offence and is punishable with upto 6 months  imprisonment or fine of Rs.10,000/-  If a parent or guardian wishes to surrender the child  for physical, emotional and social factors beyond  their control, wishes to surrender a child must  produce it before the committee and upon  satisfaction the CWC would get surrender deed  executed by parent or guardian. The CWC along  with Specialised Adoption Agency is to ensure  adoption and foster care. The CWC also makes 
efforts for tracing parents of children found without  guardians. 
19. SECTION 39 TO 55 REHABILITATION AND  SOCIAL RE INTEGRATIONThe main object of this act is to enable rehabilitation  and social re-integration and restoration of child in  need of care and protection. This chapter further  provides for registration of child care institutions.  Further foster care, sponsorship, observation homes,  special homes etc. are also provided in this Chapter.
20. SECTION 56 TO 73 ADOPTIONAdoption is to ensure the right to family for orphan,  abandoned and surrendered children. Prospective  parents are eligible for adoption if they are  physically fit, financially sound, mentally alert and  motivated to adopt a child and provide a good  upbringing. In case of couple consent of both  spouses is required, a single or divorced person can  also adopt but a single male cannot adopt a girl child  and the Specialised Adoption Agency looks into the  process of adoption. Inter country adoption is also  enabled by this Chapter. The effect of adoption is that the child becomes the  child of the adoptive parents for all purposes  including intestacy.  If any property has been divested into the child  immediately before adoption that property is to  remain with the child.
21. SECTION 74 TO 89 OTHER OFFENCES  AGAINST CHILDRENChapter IX of the JJ Act. codifies some specific  offences against children and provides for  punishments for such offenders: 1. It would be offence to disclose the identity of  child in conflict with the law, any person  doing so shall be punished with six months  imprisonment for a term which may extend  to 6 months or upto 2 lakh fine or both. 2. Punishment for cruelty to child- upto 3 year  imprisonment or 1 lakh fine or both. 3. Employing child for begging is punishable  with upto 5 year imprisonment or 1 lakh fine  or both. 4. Penalty for giving intoxicant or narcotic drug  to child- upto 7 year imprisonment or 1 lakh  fine or both.
5. Engaging child in smuggling will be  punishable with upto 7 year imprisonment or  1 lakh fine or both. 6. Exploitation of child employee is punishable  with upto 5 year imprisonment or 1 lakh fine  or both. 7. Sale and procurement of children is  punishable with upto 5 year rigorus  imprisonment or 1 lakh fine or both. 8. Corporal punishment and use of child by  militant groups is also an offence.
22. Section 90 to 110 MISCELLANEOUSThe Act further contains provisions regarding  childcare like care of mentally ill or addicted  children. The act further provides that appeal to judgment of  JJ Board can be made to Court of Session without  any provision of second appeal. Order of Children Court can be made before the  High Court. The power of revision lies with the high court. Further there are provisions of Juvenile Justice fund  etc. in this act.

Need and Significance of the Act

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, emerged from a critical need to address the complex and sensitive issues surrounding children in conflict with the law and children in need of care and protection in India. Its significance lies in several key aspects:

1. Child-Centric Approach: The act places the child’s best interests at the core of all its provisions. It recognizes that children are inherently different from adults in terms of mental and emotional development, making it essential to have a distinct legal framework to safeguard their rights.

2. International Commitments: India is a signatory to international conventions like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which necessitates the development of domestic legislation in line with global standards. The act ensures that India fulfills its obligations under these treaties.

3. Strengthening Rehabilitation: The act focuses on the rehabilitation and reintegration of juvenile offenders into society. It acknowledges that many children in conflict with the law come from disadvantaged backgrounds and may be victims themselves. 

4. Addressing Heinous Crimes: While retaining the principle of treating children under 18 as juveniles, the act introduces provisions to address the rising concerns of heinous crimes committed by juveniles aged 16 to 18. It balances the need for accountability with the understanding of their potential for reform.

5. Child Welfare: The act strengthens the child welfare system by mandating the formation of Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) in every district. These bodies ensure that decisions regarding children in need of care and protection are made by experts, safeguarding their rights.

6. Monitoring and Evaluation: Regular monitoring and evaluation of the act’s implementation are integral, ensuring accountability and efficiency in the juvenile justice system.

In essence, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, represents a significant step in safeguarding the rights and well-being of children in India. It recognizes their vulnerability, focuses on rehabilitation, and aligns with international standards, reflecting a commitment to nurturing a just and compassionate society where children are protected, supported, and given the opportunity to thrive.

Criticism and Limitations of the Act

While the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, is a commendable effort to address the complexities of juvenile justice in India, it has faced criticism and has certain limitations that need consideration:

1. Age Determination Challenges: One significant criticism revolves around determining the age of juveniles accurately. In many cases, the age of the accused is disputed, leading to delayed justice. The act does not provide a foolproof mechanism for age verification, leading to potential misuse.

2. Heinous Crimes Controversy: The provision allowing juveniles aged 16 to 18 involved in heinous crimes to be tried as adults has sparked debate. Critics argue that this move is retributive rather than reformative and may subject juveniles to harsher penalties without considering their potential for rehabilitation.

3. Overburdened Infrastructure: The act’s ambitious vision of establishing Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) in every district has faced challenges in terms of infrastructure and human resources. Many regions still lack adequately equipped institutions, leading to delays and inefficiencies.

4. Lack of Skilled Personnel: The act places significant importance on the role of experts, such as Child Welfare Officers and Social Workers. However, there is a shortage of skilled professionals to effectively implement its provisions, hampering its success.

5. Reintegration Difficulties: While the act emphasizes rehabilitation and reintegration, the ground reality often falls short. Lack of appropriate vocational training and counseling for juvenile offenders makes it difficult for them to reintegrate into society successfully.

6. Limited Child Welfare Services: The act doesn’t adequately address the need for comprehensive child welfare services beyond legal processes. Children in need of care and protection often require social, psychological, and educational support, which is not uniformly available.

7. Resource Allocation: The allocation of resources for the implementation of the act remains a concern. Budgetary constraints hinder the creation of child-friendly infrastructure, staff training, and outreach programs.

8. Limited Public Awareness: The act’s provisions are often not well understood by the public, including parents, guardians, and even law enforcement officers. This lack of awareness can hinder its effective implementation.

While the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, represents progress in protecting the rights and well-being of children in India, it faces criticism and limitations in terms of age determination, infrastructure, skilled personnel, and comprehensive child welfare services. Addressing these issues is crucial to realizing the act’s intended goals and ensuring a just and supportive environment for children in need of care and protection or in conflict with the law.


The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, is landmark legislation in India aimed at ensuring the welfare and protection of children in conflict with the law and those in need of care and protection. This act represents a significant shift in the approach to juvenile justice, emphasizing rehabilitation and reintegration over retribution. However, while it has made substantial strides in improving the juvenile justice system, there are areas where it faces criticism and limitations.

One of the pivotal aspects of the act is the age determination process. The act lacks a foolproof mechanism for precisely verifying the age of juveniles, which can lead to disputes and delayed justice. Additionally, the provision allowing juveniles aged 16 to 18 involved in heinous crimes to be tried as adults has sparked debate, with concerns about its potential for retribution rather than reform.

The infrastructure and human resources required for the proper functioning of Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) are often lacking, causing delays and inefficiencies. Moreover, there is a shortage of skilled professionals, such as Child Welfare Officers and Social Workers, to effectively implement the act’s provisions.

While the act underscores rehabilitation and reintegration, there remains a gap in providing necessary vocational training and counseling to juvenile offenders for successful reintegration into society. Comprehensive child welfare services, including social, psychological, and educational support, are often inadequate.

Resource allocation remains a challenge, hindering the creation of child-friendly infrastructure, staff training, and outreach programs. Adoption procedures, though streamlined, continue to face delays due to lengthy legal proceedings, administrative issues, and a shortage of adoptive parents.

In conclusion, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, is a significant step forward in ensuring the rights and well-being of children in India. However, addressing the challenges, such as age determination, infrastructure, skilled personnel, and comprehensive child welfare services, is crucial to realizing its intended objectives. By addressing these issues, India can create a more just and supportive environment for children in need of care and protection and those in conflict with the law, ensuring their rights and a brighter future.

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