Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012


The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, has been passed by the Lok Sabha on, 22nd May, 2012. The Bill was earlier passed by the Rajya Sabha on 10th May, 2012.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 has been drafted to strengthen the legal provisions for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation. For the first time, a special law has been passed to address the issue of sexual offences against children.

Sexual offences are currently covered under different sections of IPC. The IPC does not provide for all types of sexual offences against children and, more importantly, does not distinguish between adult and child victims.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years and provides protection to all children under the age of 18 years from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. These offences have been clearly defined for the first time in law. The Act provides for stringent punishments, which have been graded as per the gravity of the offence. The punishments range from simple to rigorous imprisonment of varying periods. There is also provision for fine, which is to be decided by the Court.

An offence is treated as “aggravated” when committed by a person in a position of trust or authority of child such as a member of security forces, police officer, public servant, etc.

Punishments for Offences covered in the Act are:
·   Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section 3) –  Not less than seven years which may extend to imprisonment for life, and fine (Section 4)
·   Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section 5) –­ Not less than ten years which may extend to imprisonment for life, and fine (Section 6)
·   Sexual Assault (Section 7) – Not less than three years which may extend to five years, and fine (Section 8)
·   Aggravated Sexual Assault (Section 9) – Not less than five years which may extend to seven years, and fine (Section 10)
·   Sexual Harassment of the Child (Section 11) – Three years and fine (Section 12)
·   Use of Child for Pornographic Purposes (Section 13) –  Five years and fine and in the event of subsequent conviction, seven years and fine (Section 14 (1))

                           The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for trial of offences under the Act, keeping the best interest of the child as of paramount importance at every stage of the judicial process. The Act incorporates child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences. These include:
·                                       Recording the statement of the child at the residence of the child or at the place of his choice, preferably by a woman police officer not below the rank of sub-inspector
·                                       No child to be detained in the police station in the night for any reason.
·                                       Police officer to not be in uniform while recording the statement of the child
·                                       The statement of the child to be recorded as spoken by the child
·                                       Assistance of an interpreter or translator or an expert as per the need of the child
·                                       Assistance of special educator or any person familiar with the manner of communication of the child in case child is disabled
·                                       Medical examination of the child to be conducted in the presence of the parent of the child or any other person in whom the child has trust or confidence.
·                                       In case the victim is a girl child, the medical examination shall be conducted by a woman doctor.
·                                       Frequent breaks for the child during trial
·                                       Child not to be called repeatedly to testify
·                                       No aggressive questioning or character assassination of the child
·                                       In-camera trial of cases

The Act recognizes that the intent to commit an offence, even when unsuccessful for whatever reason, needs to be penalized. The attempt to commit an offence under the Act has been made liable for punishment for upto half the punishment prescribed for the commission of the offence.

The Act also provides for punishment for abetment of the offence, which is the same as for the commission of the offence. This would cover trafficking of children for sexual purposes.
For the more heinous offences of Penetrative Sexual Assault, Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault, the burden of proof is shifted on the accused. This provision has been made keeping in view the greater vulnerability and innocence of children. At the same time, to prevent misuse of the law, punishment has been provided for making false complaint or proving false information with malicious intent. Such punishment has been kept relatively light (six months) to encourage reporting. If false complaint is made against a child, punishment is higher (one year).
The media has been barred from disclosing the identity of the child without the permission of the Special Court. The punishment for breaching this provision by media may be from six months to one year.
For speedy trial, the Act provides for the evidence of the child to be recorded within a period of 30 days. Also, the Special Court is to complete the trial within a period of one year, as far as possible.
To provide for relief and rehabilitation of the child, as soon as the complaint is made to the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) or local police, these will make immediate arrangements to give the child, care and protection such as admitting the child into shelter home or to the nearest hospital within twenty-four hours of the report. The SJPU or the local police are also required to report the matter to the Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours of recording the complaint, for long term rehabilitation of the child.
The Act casts a duty on the Central and State Governments to spread awareness through media including the television, radio and the print media at regular intervals to make the general public, children as well as their parents and guardians aware of the provisions of this Act.
The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) have been made the designated authority to monitor the implementation of the Act.



Care and Protection of Children Act in India



                                                                  REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                    CIVIL/CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

                      WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 10 OF 2013


SALIL BALI                                              ... PETITIONER

              VS.

UNION OF INDIA & ANR.                           ... RESPONDENTS

                                    WITH
                  W.P.(C)NOS.14, 42, 85, 90 and 182 OF 2013
                                    WITH
                            W.P.(CRL)NO.6 OF 2013
                                     AND
                            T.C.(C)No. 82 OF 2013


                               J U D G M E N T


ALTAMAS KABIR, CJI.


1.      Seven Writ Petitions and one Transferred Case  have  been  taken  up
together for consideration in view of the commonality  of  the  grounds  and
reliefs prayed for therein.  While in Writ Petition  (C)  No.  14  of  2013,
Saurabh Prakash Vs. Union of India, and Writ Petition (C) No.  90  of  2013,
Vinay K. Sharma Vs. Union of India,  a  common  prayer  has  been  made  for
declaration of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of  Children)  Act,
2000, as ultra vires the Constitution, in Writ Petition (C) No. 10 of  2013,
Salil Bali Vs. Union of India, Writ Petition (C) No.  85  of  2013,  Krishna
Deo Prasad Vs. Union of India, Writ Petition  (C)  No.  42  of  2013,  Kamal
Kumar Pandey & Sukumar Vs. Union of India and Writ Petition (C) No.  182  of
2013, Hema Sahu Vs. Union of India, a common  prayer  has  inter  alia  been
made to strike down the provisions of Section 2(k)  and  (l)  of  the  above
Act, along with a prayer to bring  the  said  Act  in  conformity  with  the
provisions of the Constitution and to direct the Respondent No.  1  to  take
steps to make changes in  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and  Protection  of
Children) Act, 2000, to bring it in line with the  United  Nations  Standard
Minimum Rules for administration of juvenile justice.  In  addition  to  the
above, in Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 6 of 2013, Shilpa Arora Sharma Vs.  Union
of India, a prayer has inter alia been made to appoint a panel  of  criminal
psychologists to determine through clinical methods whether the juvenile  is
involved in the Delhi gang rape on 16.12.2012.  Yet,  another  relief  which
has been prayed for in common during the oral submissions made on behalf  of
the Petitioners was that in offences like rape and murder, juveniles  should
be tried  under  the  normal  law  and  not  under  the  aforesaid  Act  and
protection granted to persons up to the age of 18 years under the  aforesaid
Act may be removed and that the investigating agency should be permitted  to
keep the record of the juvenile offenders to  take  preventive  measures  to
enable them to detect  repeat  offenders  and  to  bring  them  to  justice.
Furthermore, prayers have also been made in Writ Petition (Crl.)  No.  6  of
2013 and Writ Petition (C) No.  85  of  2013,  which  are  personal  to  the
juvenile accused in the Delhi gang rape case of 16.12.2012, not  to  release
him and to keep him in custody or any place of strict  detention,  after  he
was found to be a mentally abnormal  psychic  person  and  that  proper  and
detailed investigation be conducted by the CBI to ascertain his correct  age
by examining his school documents and other records and to  further  declare
that prohibition in Section 21 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and  Protection
of Children) Act, 2000, be declared unconstitutional.

2.      In most of the matters, the Writ Petitioners appeared in-person,  in
support of their individual cases.

3.      Writ Petition (C) No.10 of 2013,  filed  by  Shri  Salil  Bali,  was
taken up as the first matter in the bunch.   The  Petitioner  appearing  in-
person urged that it was necessary for the provisions of Section 2(k),  2(l)
and 15 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,  2000,
to be reconsidered in the light of the  spurt  in  criminal  offences  being
committed by persons within the range of 16 to 18 years, such  as  the  gang
rape of a young woman inside  a  moving  vehicle  on  16th  December,  2012,
wherein along with others, a juvenile, who  had  attained  the  age  of  17=
years, was being tried separately  under  the  provisions  of  the  Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

4.      Mr. Bali submitted that the age of responsibility,  as  accepted  in
India, is different from what has been accepted by other  countries  of  the
world.   But,  Mr.  Bali  also  pointed  out  that  even  in  the   criminal
jurisprudence  prevalent  in   India,   the   age   of   responsibility   of
understanding the consequences of one's actions had been  recognized  as  12
years in the Indian Penal Code.  Referring to Section 82 of  the  Code,  Mr.
Bali pointed out that the same provides that nothing is an offence which  is
done by a child under seven  years  of  age.   Mr.  Bali  also  referred  to
Section 83 of the Code, which provides that nothing is an offence  which  is
done by a child above seven years of age  and  under  twelve,  who  has  not
attained sufficient maturity  of  understanding  to  judge  the  nature  and
consequences of his conduct on a particular occasion.  Mr. Bali,  therefore,
urged  that  even  under  the  Indian  Criminal  Jurisprudence  the  age  of
understanding has been fixed at twelve years, which according  to  him,  was
commensurate with the thinking  of  other  countries,  such  as  the  United
States of America, Great Britain and Canada.

5.      In regard to  Canada,  Mr.  Bali  referred  to  the  Youth  Criminal
Justice Act, 2003, as amended from time to time, where the age  of  criminal
responsibility has been fixed at twelve years.  Referring to Section  13  of
the Criminal Code of Canada, Mr. Bali submitted that the  same  is  in  pari
materia with the provisions of Section 83 of  the  Indian  Penal  Code.   In
fact, according to the Criminal Justice Delivery System in Canada,  a  youth
between the age of 14 to 17 years may be tried and sentenced as an adult  in
certain situations.  Mr. Bali also pointed  out  that  even  in  Canada  the
Youth  Criminal  Justice  Act  governs  the  application  of  criminal   and
correctional law to those who are twelve years old  or  older,  but  younger
than 18 at the time of committing the offence, and  that,  although,  trials
were to take place in a Youth Court, for certain  offences  and  in  certain
circumstances, a youth may be awarded an adult sentence.
6.       Comparing  the  position  in  USA  and  the  Juvenile  Justice  and
Delinquency Prevention Act, 1974, he urged that while in several States,  no
set standards have been provided, reliance is placed on the common  law  age
of seven in fixing the age of criminal responsibility, the lowest being  six
years in North Carolina.  The general  practice  in  the  United  States  of
America, however, is that even for such children, the  courts  are  entitled
to impose life sentences in respect of certain types of offences,  but  such
life sentences without parole were not permitted for those under the age  of
eighteen years convicted of murder or offences involving violent crimes  and
weapons violations.

7.      In England and Wales,  children  accused  of  crimes  are  generally
tried under the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, as amended by  Section
16(1) of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963.   Under  the  said  laws,
the minimum age of criminal responsibility  in  England  and  Wales  is  ten
years and those below the said age are considered to be  doli  incapax  and,
thus, incapable of having any mens rea, which is similar to  the  provisions
of Sections 82 and 83 of Indian Penal Code.

8.      Mr. Bali has also referred to the legal circumstances prevailing  in
other parts of the world wherein the  age  of  criminal  responsibility  has
been fixed between ten to sixteen years.  Mr. Bali contended that there  was
a general worldwide concern over the rising graph of  criminal  activity  of
juveniles  below  the  age  of  eighteen  years,  which  has  been  accepted
worldwide to be the age limit under which all persons were to be treated  as
children.   Mr.  Bali  sought  to  make  a  distinction  in  regard  to  the
definition of children as such in Sections 2(k) and  2(l)  of  the  Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of  Children)  Act,  2000,  and  the  level  of
maturity of the child who is capable of understanding  the  consequences  of
his actions.  He, accordingly, urged that the provisions of Sections 15  and
16 of the  Act  needed  to  be  reconsidered  and  appropriate  orders  were
required to be passed in regard to the level of  punishment  in  respect  of
heinous offences committed by children below  the  age  of  eighteen  years,
such as murder, rape,  dacoity,  etc.   Mr.  Bali  submitted  that  allowing
perpetrators of such crimes to get off with a sentence  of  three  years  at
the maximum, was not justified and a correctional course was required to  be
undertaken in that regard.

9.      Mr. Saurabh Prakash, Petitioner in  Writ  Petition  (C)  No.  14  of
2013, also appeared in-person and, while endorsing the submissions  made  by
Mr. Bali, went a step further in suggesting that in view of  the  provisions
of Sections 15 and 16 of  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and  Protection  of
Children) Act, 2000, children, as defined in the above Act,  were  not  only
taking advantage of the same, but were also  being  used  by  criminals  for
their own ends.  The Petitioner reiterated Mr. Bali's submission that  after
being awarded a maximum sentence of three years,  a  juvenile  convicted  of
heinous offences, was almost likely to become a monster in society and  pose
a great danger to others, in view of his criminal  propensities.   Although,
in the prayers to the Writ Petition, one of the reliefs prayed for  was  for
quashing the provisions of the entire Act, Mr.  Saurabh  Prakash  ultimately
urged that some of the provisions thereof were such as could  be  segregated
and struck down so as to preserve the Act as a whole.  The Petitioner  urged
that, under Article 21 of the Constitution, every citizen has a  fundamental
right to live in dignity and peace, without being subjected to  violence  by
other members of society and that by shielding  juveniles,  who  were  fully
capable of  understanding  the  consequences  of  their  actions,  from  the
sentences, as could be awarded under  the  Indian  Penal  Code,  as  far  as
adults are concerned, the State was creating a class of  citizens  who  were
not only prone to criminal activity,  but  in  whose  cases  restoration  or
rehabilitation was not possible.  Mr. Saurabh  Prakash  submitted  that  the
provisions of  Sections  15  and  16  of  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children) Act, 2000,  violated  the  rights  guaranteed  to  a
citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution  and  were,  therefore,  liable
to be struck down.

10.     Mr. Saurabh Prakash also submitted that the  provisions  of  Section
19 of the Act, which provided for removal of disqualification  attaching  to
conviction, were also illogical and were liable to be struck down.   It  was
submitted that in order to prevent repeated offences by  an  individual,  it
was necessary to maintain the  records  of  the  inquiry  conducted  by  the
Juvenile Justice Board, in relation to juveniles so that such records  would
enable the authorities concerned to assess the  criminal  propensity  of  an
individual, which would call for a different approach to  be  taken  at  the
time of inquiry.  Mr. Saurabh Prakash urged this Court to give  a  direction
to the effect that the Juvenile  Justice  Board  or  courts  or  other  high
public authorities would have the discretion to direct that in a  particular
case, the provisions of the general law would apply to a  juvenile  and  not
those of the Act.

11.     Mr.  Vivek  Narayan  Sharma,  learned  Advocate,  appeared  for  the
petitioner in Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 6 of 2013, filed by one Shilpa  Arora
Sharma, and submitted that the Juvenile Justice Board should be vested  with
the discretion to impose  punishment  beyond  three  years,  as  limited  by
Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection  of  Children)  Act,
2000, in cases where a child, having full knowledge of the  consequences  of
his/her actions, commits a  heinous  offence  punishable  either  with  life
imprisonment or death.  Mr. Sharma submitted  that  such  a  child  did  not
deserve to be treated as a child and be allowed  to  re-mingle  in  society,
particularly when the identity of the child is to be  kept  a  secret  under
Sections 19  and  21  of  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and  Protection  of
Children) Act, 2000.  Mr. Sharma  submitted  that  in  many  cases  children
between the  ages  of  sixteen  to  eighteen  years  were,  in  fact,  being
exploited by adults to commit heinous offences who knew full well  that  the
punishment therefor would not exceed three years.

12.     Mr. Sharma urged  that  without  disturbing  the  other  beneficient
provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection  of  Children)  Act,
2000, some of the gray areas pointed  out  could  be  addressed  in  such  a
manner as would make the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of  Children)
Act, 2000, more effective and prevent the misuse thereof.

13.     In Writ Petition (C) No. 85 of 2013, filed by  Krishna  Deo  Prasad,
Dr. R.R. Kishor appeared for the Petitioner and gave a detailed  account  of
the manner in which  the  Juvenile  Justice  Delivery  System  had  evolved.
Referring to the doctrine of doli incapax, rebuttable presumption and  adult
responsibility,  Dr.  Kishor  contended  that  even  Article  1  of  the  UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child  defines  a  child  in  the  following
terms:
           "Article 1


           For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means  every
           human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law
           applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier."

14.     Dr. Kishor contended that, as pointed out by  Mr.  Salil  Bali,  the
expression "child" has been defined in various ways in  different  countries
all over the world.  Accordingly, the definition of a child in Section  2(k)
of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,  2000,  would
depend on the existing laws in India defining a child.  Dr. Kishor  referred
to the provisions of the Child  Labour  (Prohibition  and  Regulation)  Act,
1986, as an example, to indicate that children up to  the  age  of  fourteen
years were treated differently from children between the  ages  of  fourteen
to eighteen, for the purposes of employment in  hazardous  industries.   Dr.
Kishor re-asserted  the  submissions  made  by  Mr.  Bali  and  Mr.  Saurabh
Prakash, in regard to heinous crimes committed by children below the age  of
eighteen years, who were capable of understanding the consequences of  their
acts.

15.     Dr. Kishor also referred to the provisions of Sections 82 and 83  of
the Indian Penal Code, where the age  of  responsibility  and  comprehension
has been fixed at twelve years and below.  Learned  counsel  submitted  that
having regard to  the  above-mentioned  provisions,  it  would  have  to  be
seriously considered as  to  whether  the  definition  of  a  child  in  the
Juvenile Justice (Care and  Protection  of  Children)  Act,  2000,  required
reconsideration.  He urged that because a person under the age of  18  years
was considered to be a child,  despite  his  or  her  propensity  to  commit
criminal offences, which are of a heinous and even gruesome nature, such  as
offences punishable under Sections 376, 307, 302,  392,  396,  397  and  398
IPC, the said provisions have been misused and exploited  by  criminals  and
people having their own  scores  to  settle.   Dr.  Kishor  urged  that  the
definition of a "juvenile" or a "child" or  a  "juvenile  in  conflict  with
law",  in  Sections  2(k)  and  2(l)  of  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children)  Act,  2000,  was  liable  to  be  struck  down  and
replaced with  a  more  meaningful  definition,  which  would  exclude  such
juveniles.

16.     Mr. Vikram  Mahajan,  learned  Senior  Advocate  appearing  for  the
Petitioner, Vinay K. Sharma, in Writ Petition (C)  No.  90  of  2013,  urged
that the right given  to  a  citizen  of  India  under  Article  21  of  the
Constitution is impinged upon by the Juvenile Justice (Care  and  Protection
of Children) Act, 2000.  Mr. Mahajan urged that the Juvenile  Justice  (Care
and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, operates in violation of Articles  14
and 21 of the Constitution and that Article 13(2),  which  relates  to  post
Constitution laws, prohibits the State from making a law which either  takes
away totally or abrogates in part a fundamental  right.   Referring  to  the
United Nations Declaration on the Elimination  of  Violence  against  Women,
adopted by the General Assembly on 20th December, 1993, Mr. Mahajan  pointed
out that Article 1 of the Convention describes "violence against  women"  to
mean any act of gender-based violence that  results  in,  or  is  likely  to
result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm  or  suffering  to  women.
Referring to the alleged gang rape of a 23 year  old  para-medical  student,
in a moving bus, in Delhi, on 16th December,  2012,  Mr.  Mahajan  tried  to
indicate that crimes committed by juveniles had reached  large  and  serious
proportions and that there was a need to amend the law to ensure  that  such
persons were not given the benefit of lenient  punishment,  as  contemplated
under Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection  of  Children)
Act, 2000.  From the figures cited by him,  he  urged  that  even  going  by
statistics, 1% of the total number of crimes committed in the country  would
amount to a large number and the remedy to such a problem would lie  in  the
Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, which made the provisions of the  Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,  2000,  redundant  and  ultra
vires Article 21 of the Constitution.

17.     Ms. Shweta Kapoor appeared in Transferred Case No. 82  of  2013  in-
person and  questioned  the  vires  of  Sections  16(1),  19(1),  49(2)  and
52(2)(a) of the Juvenile Justice (Care  and  Protection  of  Children)  Act,
2000, and submitted that they were liable to be declared as ultra vires  the
Constitution.  Referring to Section 16 of  the  aforesaid  Act,  Ms.  Kapoor
submitted that even in  the  proviso  to  Sub-section  (1)  of  Section  16,
Parliament had recognized  the  distinction  between  a  juvenile,  who  had
attained the age of sixteen years, but had committed an  offence  which  was
so serious in nature that it  would  not  be  in  his  interest  or  in  the
interest of other juveniles in a special home, to send him to  such  special
home.   Considering that none of the other measures provided under  the  Act
was suitable or sufficient,  the Government had empowered the Board to  pass
an order for the juvenile to be kept in such place of  safety  and  in  such
manner as it thought fit.  Ms. Kapoor submitted that no objection  could  be
taken to the said provision except for the  fact  that  in  the  proviso  to
Section 16(2), it has been added that the period of  detention  order  would
not exceed, in any case, the maximum limit of punishment, as provided  under
Section 15, which is three years.

18.     Ms. Kapoor contended that  while  the  provisions  of  the  Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,  2000,  are  generally  meant
for the benefit of the juvenile offenders, a serious attempt would  have  to
be  made  to  grade  the  nature  of  offences  to  suit   the   reformation
contemplated by the Act.

19.     As part of her submissions, Ms. Kapoor referred to the  decision  of
this Court in Avishek Goenka Vs. Union of India [(2012) 5 SCC 321],  wherein
the pasting of black films on glass panes  were  banned  by  this  Court  on
account of the fact that partially opaque glass panes on vehicles  acted  as
facilitators of crime.  Ms. Kapoor urged that in the  opening  paragraph  of
the judgment, it has been observed that "Alarming  rise  in  heinous  crimes
like kidnapping, sexual assault on women and dacoity have impinged upon  the
right to life and the right to live in a safe environment which  are  within
the contours of Article 21 of the Constitution of India".  Ms.  Kapoor  also
referred to another decision of this Court in Abuzar Hossain  Vs.  State  of
West Bengal [(2012) 10 SCC 489],  which  dealt  with  a  different  question
regarding the provisions of Section 7A of the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children) Act, 2000, and the right of an accused to raise  the
claim of juvenility at any stage of  the  proceedings  and  even  after  the
final disposal of the case.

20.     In conclusion, Ms. Kapoor  reiterated  her  stand  that  in  certain
cases the definition of  a  juvenile  in  Sections  2(k)  and  2(l)  of  the
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, would have  to
be considered differently.

21.     The next  matter  which  engaged  our  attention  is  Writ  Petition
(Civil) No.90 of 2013 filed  by  one  Vinay  Kumar  Sharma,  praying  for  a
declaration that the Juvenile Justice  (Care  and  Protection  of  Children)
Act, 2000, be declared  ultra  vires  the  Constitution  and  that  children
should also be tried along with adults under the penal  laws  applicable  to
adults.

22.     Writ Petition (Civil) No.42 of 2013 has been filed  by  Kamal  Kumar
Pandey and Sukumar, Advocates,  inter  alia,  for  an  appropriate  writ  or
direction declaring the provisions of  Sections  2(1),  10  and  17  of  the
Juvenile Justice  (Care  and  Protection  of  Children)  Act,  2000,  to  be
irrational, arbitrary, without reasonable nexus and thereby ultra vires  and
unconstitutional, and for a Writ of  Mandamus  commanding  the  Ministry  of
Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Justice, Government  of  India,  to
take  steps  that  the  aforesaid  Act  operates  in  conformity  with   the
Constitution.  In addition, a prayer was made to declare the  provisions  of
Sections 15 and 19 of the above Act ultra vires the Constitution.

23.     The main  thrust  of  the  argument  advanced  by  Mr.  Pandey,  who
appeared in person, was the  inter-play  between  International  Conventions
and Rules, such as the Beijing Rules,  1985,  the  U.N.  Convention  on  the
Rights of the Child, 1989, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection  of
Children) Act, 2000.  While admitting  the  salubirous  and  benevolent  and
progressive character of the legislation in dealing with  children  in  need
of care and protection and with children in conflict with  law,  Mr.  Pandey
contended that a distinction was required to be made in respect of  children
with a propensity to  commit  heinous  crimes  which  were  a  threat  to  a
peaceful social order.  Mr. Pandey reiterated the submissions  made  earlier
that it was unconstitutional to place all  juveniles,  irrespective  of  the
gravity of the offences,  in one bracket.  Urging that Section 2(l)  of  the
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, ought  not  to
have placed all children in conflict with law within the same  bracket,  Mr.
Pandey  submitted  that  the  same  is  ultra  vires  Article  21   of   the
Constitution.  Referring to the report of the National Crime Records  Bureau
(NCRB) for the years 2001 to 2011, Mr. Pandey submitted  that  between  2001
and 2011, the involvement of juveniles  in  cognizable  crimes  was  on  the
rise.   Mr.  Pandey  urged  that  it   was   a   well-established   medical-
psychological fact that the level of understanding of a 16 year-old  was  at
par with that of adults.

24.     Mr. Pandey's next volley was directed  towards  Section  19  of  the
Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and  Protection  of  Children)  Act,  2000,  which
provides for the removal of any disqualification attached to an  offence  of
any nature.  Mr. Pandey submitted that the said provisions do not take  into
account the fact relating  to  repeated  offences  being  perpetrated  by  a
juvenile whose  records  of  previous  offences  are  removed.   Mr.  Pandey
contended that Section 19 of the Act was required to be  amended  to  enable
the concerned authorities to retain records of previous  offences  committed
by a juvenile for the purposes  of  identification  of  a  juvenile  with  a
propensity to repeatedly commit offences of a grievous or heinous nature.

25.     Mr. Pandey submitted that Parliament had  exceeded  its  mandate  by
blindly adopting eighteen as the upper limit in categorising a  juvenile  or
a  child,  in  accordance  with  the  Beijing  Rules,  1985,  and  the  U.N.
Convention, 1989, without taking into account  the  socio-cultural  economic
conditions and the legal system for administration of  criminal  justice  in
India.  Mr. Pandey urged that the Juvenile Justice (Care and  Protection  of
Children) Act,  2000,  was  required  to  operate  in  conformity  with  the
provisions of the Constitution of India.

26.     Ms. Hema Sahu, the petitioner in Writ Petition (Civil)  No.  182  of
2013, also appeared in person and restated the views expressed by the  other
petitioners  that  the  United  Nations  Standard  Minimum  Rules  for   the
Administration of Juvenile Justice, commonly known as the  "Beijing  Rules",
recognized and noted the difference in the nature of offences  committed  by
juveniles in conflict with law.  Referring to the decision of this Court  in
the case commonly known as the "Bombay  Blasts  Case",  Ms.  Sahu  submitted
that a juvenile who was tried and convicted  along  with  adults  under  the
Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA), was  denied  the  protection
of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection  of  Children)  Act,  2000,  on
account of the serious nature of the offence.  Ms. Sahu ended  on  the  note
that paragraph 4 of the 1989 Convention did not make any reference to age.

27.     Appearing for the Union of India, the Additional Solicitor  General,
Mr. Siddharth Luthra, strongly opposed the submissions  made  on  behalf  of
the Petitioners to either declare the  entire  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children) Act, 2000, as ultra vires the Constitution or  parts
thereof,  such as Sections 2(k),  2(l),  15,  16,  17,  19  and  21.   After
referring to the aforesaid provisions of  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection  of  Children)  Act,  2000,  the  learned  ASG   submitted   that
Parliament consciously fixed eighteen years  as  the  upper  age  limit  for
treating persons as juveniles and children, taking  into  consideration  the
general trend of legislation,  not  only  internationally,  but  within  the
country as well.

28.     The learned ASG  submitted  that  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children) Act, 2000, was enacted after years  of  deliberation
and in conformity with international standards as  laid  down  in  the  U.N.
Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, the Beijing  Rules,  1985,  the
Havana Rules and other  international  instruments  for  securing  the  best
interests of the child with the primary object of  social  reintegration  of
child victims and children  in  conflict  with  law,  without  resorting  to
conventional judicial proceedings which existed  for  adult  criminals.   In
the course of his submissions, the learned ASG  submitted  a  chart  of  the
various Indian statutes and the manner in which children have been  excluded
from liability under the said Acts upto the age of 18 years. In most of  the
said enactments, a juvenile/child has been  referred  to  a  person  who  is
below 18 years of age.  The learned  ASG  submitted  that  in  pursuance  of
international obligations, the Union of India  after  due  deliberation  had
taken a conscious policy decision to fix the age of a child/juvenile at  the
upper limit of 18 years.  The learned ASG urged that the fixing of  the  age
when a child ceases to be a child at 18 years is a matter  of  policy  which
could not be questioned in a court of law, unless the same  could  be  shown
to have violated any of the fundamental rights, and in  particular  Articles
14 and 21 of the Constitution.  Referring to the decision of this  Court  in
BALCO Employees Union Vs. Union of India [(2002) 2  SCC  333],  the  learned
ASG submitted that at  paragraph  46  of  the  said  judgment  it  had  been
observed that it is neither within the domain of the Courts  nor  the  scope
of judicial review to embark upon an enquiry  as  to  whether  a  particular
public policy was wise or whether something better could be evolved. It  was
further observed that the Courts were reluctant to strike down a  policy  at
the behest of  a  Petitioner  merely  because  it  has  been  urged  that  a
different policy would have been fairer or wiser or more scientific or  more
logical.   The  learned  ASG  further  urged  that  Article  15(3)  of   the
Constitution empowers the State to enact special provisions  for  women  and
children, which reveals that the Juvenile Justice (Care  and  Protection  of
Children)  Act,  2000,  was  in  conformity  with  the  provisions  of   the
Constitution.
29.     The learned ASG submitted that in various judgments, this Court  and
the High Courts had recognised the fact that juveniles were required  to  be
treated differently from adults so as to give such children,  who  for  some
reason had gone astray, an opportunity to  realize  their  mistakes  and  to
rehabilitate themselves and rebuild their lives.  Special mention  was  made
with regard to the decision of this Court in Abuzar Hossain (supra) in  this
regard.   The learned ASG also referred to the decision  of  this  Court  in
State of Tamil Nadu Vs. K. Shyam Sunder [(2011) 8 SCC 737], wherein  it  had
been observed that merely because the  law  causes  hardships  or  sometimes
results in adverse consequences, it cannot be held to  be  ultra  vires  the
Constitution, nor can it be struck down.  The  learned  ASG  also  submitted
that it was now well-settled that reasonable classification  is  permissible
so long as such classification has a rational nexus with the  object  sought
to be achieved.  This Court has always held that the presumption  is  always
in favour of the constitutionality of an  enactment,  since  it  has  to  be
assumed that the  legislature  understands  and  correctly  appreciates  the
needs of its own people  and  its  discriminations  are  based  on  adequate
grounds.

30.     Referring to the Reports  of  the  National  Crime  Reports  Bureau,
learned ASG pointed out that the percentage of increase  in  the  number  of
offences committed by  juveniles  was  almost  negligible  and  the  general
public perception in such matters was  entirely  erroneous.   In  fact,  the
learned ASG pointed out that even the  Committee  appointed  to  review  the
amendments to the criminal law, headed by former CJI,  J.S.  Verma,  in  its
report submitted on 23rd January, 2013, did not recommend the  reduction  in
the age of juveniles in conflict with  law  and  has  maintained  it  at  18
years.  The learned ASG pointed out that the issue of reduction in  the  age
of juveniles from 18 to 16 years, as it was in the Juveniles Justice Act  of
1986, was also raised in the Lok Sabha  on  19th  March,  2013,  during  the
discussion on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, but was  rejected  by
the House.

31.  The learned ASG submitted that the occurrence of 16th  December,  2012,
involving the alleged gang rape of  a  23  year  old  girl,  should  not  be
allowed to colour the decision taken to treat all persons below the  age  of
18 years, as children.

32.   Mr. Anant Asthana, learned Advocate appearing  for HAQ  :  Centre  for
Child Rights, submitted that the Juvenile Justice (Care  and  Protection  of
Children) Act, 2000, as amended in 2006 and 2011, is  a  fairly  progressive
legislation, largely compliant  with  the  Constitution  of  India  and  the
minimum standards contained in the Beijing  Rules.   Mr.  Asthana  contended
that the reason for incidents such as the  16th  December,  2012,  incident,
was not on account of the provisions of the aforesaid Act,  but  on  account
of failure of the administration in implementing  its  provisions.   Learned
counsel submitted that all the Writ Petitions appeared to be  based  on  two
assumptions, namely, (i) that the age of  18  years  for  juveniles  is  set
arbitrarily; and (ii) that by reducing the age for the purpose  of  defining
a child in the aforesaid Act, criminality  amongst  children  would  reduce.
Mr. Asthana submitted that such an  approach  was  flawed  as  it  had  been
incorrectly submitted that the age of 18 years to treat persons as  children
was set arbitrarily and that it is so difficult  to  comprehend  the  causes
and the environment which brings  children  into  delinquency.  Mr.  Asthana
submitted that the answer lies in effective and  sincere  implementation  of
the different laws aimed at improving the conditions of children in need  of
care and protection and providing such protection to children at  risk.  Mr.
Asthana urged that the objective with which the Juvenile Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children) Act, 2000, was enacted was not aimed  at  delivering
retributive justice, but to  allow  a  rehabilitative,  reformation-oriented
approach in addressing juvenile crimes. Learned counsel submitted  that  the
apathy of the administration towards juveniles and the manner in which  they
are treated would be evident from the fact that by  falsifying  the  age  of
juveniles, they were treated as adults and sent to jails, instead  of  being
produced before the  Juvenile  Justice  Board  or   even  before  the  Child
Welfare Committees to be dealt with in a manner  provided  by  the  Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, for  the  treatment  of
juveniles.

33.     Mr. Asthana submitted that even as recently  as  26th  April,  2013,
the Government of India has adopted a  new  National  Policy  for  Children,
which not only recognises that a child  is  any  person  below  the  age  of
eighteen years, but also states that the policy  was  to  guide  and  inform
people of laws, policies, plans  and  programmes  affecting  children.   Mr.
Asthana urged that all actions and initiatives of the  national,  State  and
local Governments in all sectors must respect and uphold the principles  and
provisions of this policy and it would neither be appropriate  nor  possible
for the Union of India to adopt a different  approach  in  the  matter.  Mr.
Asthana, who  appears  to  have  made  an  in-depth  study  of  the  matter,
submitted that on the question of making  the  provisions  in  the  Juvenile
Justice (Care  and  Protection  of  Children)  Act,  2000,  conform  to  the
provisions of the Constitution and to allow the children of a  specific  age
group to be treated as adults, it would  be  appropriate  to  take  note  of
General Comment No.10 made by the U.N. Committee on the rights of the  child
on 25th April, 2007, which specifically dealt with the upper age  limit  for
juveniles and it was reiterated that where it was a case of  a  child  being
in need of care and protection or in conflict with law, every  person  under
the age of 18 years at the time of commission of the  alleged  offence  must
be treated in accordance with  the  Juvenile  Justice  Rules.   Mr.  Asthana
submitted that any attempt to alter the upper limit of the age  of  a  child
from 18 to 16 years would have disastrous consequences and  would  set  back
the  attempts  made  over  the  years  to  formulate   a   restorative   and
rehabilitative approach  mainly for juveniles in conflict with law.

34.     In Writ Petition (Civil) No.85 of  2013,  a  counter  affidavit  has
been filed on behalf  of  the  Ministry  of  Women  and  Child  Development,
Government of  India,  in  which  the  submissions  made  by  the  ASG,  Mr.
Siddharth  Luthra,  were  duly  reflected.   In  paragraph  I  of  the  said
affidavit, it has been pointed out  that  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children) Act, 2000, provides for a wide range of  reformative
measures under Sections 15 and 16 for children in conflict with law  -  from
simple warning to 3 years of institutionalisation in  a  Special  Home.   In
exceptional cases, provision has also been made for the juvenile to be  sent
to a place of  safety  where  intensive  rehabilitation  measures,  such  as
counselling, psychiatric evaluation and treatment would be undertaken.

35.     In Writ Petition (C) No.10 of 2013 filed  by  Shri  Salil  Bali,  an
application had been made  by  the  Prayas  Juvenile  Aid  Centre  (JAC),  a
Society whose Founder and General Secretary, Shri Amod  Kanth,  was  allowed
to appear and address the Court in person.  Mr. Amod Kanth claimed  that  he
was a former member of the Indian Police  Service  and  Chairperson  of  the
Delhi Commission for the  Protection  of  Child  Rights  and  was  also  the
founder General Secretary of the aforesaid  organisation,  which  came  into
existence in 1998 as a special unit  associated  with  the  Missing  Persons
Squad of the Crime and Railway Branch of the  Delhi  Police  of  which  Shri
Amod Kanth was the in-charge Deputy Commissioner of Police.  Mr. Amod  Kanth
submitted that Prayas was created in  order  to  identify  and  support  the
missing and found  persons,  including  girls,  street  migrants,  homeless,
working and delinquent children who  did  not  have  any  support  from  any
organisation in the  Government  or  in  the  non-governmental  organisation
sector.

36.     Mr. Kanth repeated  and  reiterated  the  submissions  made  by  the
learned ASG and Mr. Asthana and  also  highlighted  the  problems  faced  by
children both in conflict with law and in need of care and protection.   Mr.
Kanth  submitted  that  whatever  was  required   to   be   done   for   the
rehabilitation and restoration of juveniles to a normal existence has, to  a
large extent, been defeated since the various  provisions  of  the  Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and the Rules  of  2007,
were not being seriously  implemented.   Mr.  Kanth  urged  that  after  the
ratification by India of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of  the
Child on 11th December, 1992, serious thought was given to the enactment  of
the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection  of  Children  Act),  2000,  which
came to replace the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986.  Taking a leaf  out  of  Mr.
Asthana's book, Mr. Kanth submitted that even after thirteen  years  of  its
existence, the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care  and  Protection  of
Children) Act, 2000, still remained  unimplemented  in  major  areas,  which
made  it  impossible  for  the  provisions  of  the  Act  to   be   properly
coordinated.  Mr. Kanth submitted that one of the  more  important  features
of  juvenile  law  was  to  provide  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 the Act.  Submitting that the Juvenile Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children) Act, 2000,  was  based  on  the  provisions  of  the
Indian Constitution, the United Nations Convention  on  the  Rights  of  the
Child, 1989, the  Beijing  Rules  and  the  United  Nations  Rules  for  the
Protection of the Juveniles Deprived  of  their  Liberty,  1990,  Mr.  Kanth
urged that the same was in  perfect  harmony  with  the  provisions  of  the
Constitution, but did not receive the attention it ought  to  have  received
while dealing with a section of the citizens of India comprising 42% of  the
country's population.

37.     Various measures to deal with juveniles in conflict  with  law  have
been suggested by Mr. Kanth, which requires serious  thought  and  avoidance
of knee-jerk reactions to situations which could set a dangerous  trend  and
affect millions of children in need  of  care  and  protection.   Mr.  Kanth
submitted that any change in the law, as it now  stands,  resulting  in  the
reduction  of  age  to  define  a  juvenile,  will  not  only  prove  to  be
regressive, but would also adversely affect India's image as a  champion  of
human rights.

38.     Having regard to the serious nature of the issues raised before  us,
we have given serious thought to the submissions advanced on behalf  of  the
respective parties and  also  those  advanced  on  behalf  of  certain  Non-
Government Organizations and have  also  considered  the  relevant  extracts
from the Report of Justice  J.S.  Verma  Committee  on  "Amendments  to  the
Criminal Law"  and  are  convinced  that  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children) Act, 2000, as amended  in  2006,  and  the  Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007, are  based  on  sound
principles recognized internationally and contained  in  the  provisions  of
the Indian Constitution.

39.     There is little doubt that  the  incident,  which  occurred  on  the
night of 16th December, 2012, was not only gruesome, but almost maniacal  in
its content, wherein one juvenile, whose role is yet to be established,  was
involved, but such an incident, in comparison to the vast number  of  crimes
occurring in India, makes it an aberration rather than the  Rule.   If  what
has come out from the reports of the Crimes Record  Bureau,  is  true,  then
the number of crimes committed  by  juveniles  comes  to  about  2%  of  the
country's crime rate.

40.     The learned ASG along with  Mr.  Asthana  and  Mr.  Kanth,  took  us
through the history of the enactment  of  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection of  Children)  Act,  2000,  and  the  Rules  subsequently  framed
thereunder in 2007.  There is a definite thought process,  which  went  into
the enactment of the aforesaid Act.  In order to appreciate the  submissions
made on behalf of the respective parties in regard to the enactment  of  the
aforesaid  Act  and  the  Rules,  it  may  be  appropriate  to  explore  the
background of the laws relating to child protection  in  India  and  in  the
rest of the world.

41.      It  cannot  be  questioned  that  children  are  amongst  the  most
vulnerable sections in any society.  They represent almost one-third of  the
world's population, and unless they are provided with proper  opportunities,
the opportunity of making them grow into responsible  citizens  of  tomorrow
will slip out  of  the  hands  of  the  present  generation.   International
community has been alive  to  the  problem  for  a  long  time.   After  the
aftermath of the First World War, the League of Nations  issued  the  Geneva
Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1924.  Following the  gross  abuse
and violence of human rights during the Second World War, which  caused  the
death of millions of people, including  children,  the  United  Nations  had
been formed in 1945 and on 10th December, 1948 adopted  and  proclaimed  the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   While  Articles  1  and  7  of  the
Declaration proclaimed that all human beings are  born  free  and  equal  in
dignity and rights  and  are  equal  before  the  law,  Article  25  of  the
Declaration specifically provides that motherhood  and  childhood  would  be
entitled to special care and assistance.  The growing consciousness  of  the
world community was further evidenced by the Declaration of  the  Rights  of
the Child, which came to  be  proclaimed  by  the  United  Nations  on  20th
November, 1959, in the best interests of the child.  This  was  followed  by
the Beijing Rules of 1985, the Riyadh Guidelines of  1990,  which  specially
provided guidelines for the prevention  of  juvenile  delinquency,  and  the
Havana Rules of 14th December, 1990.  The said three sets of Rules  intended
that social policies should be  evolved  and  applied  to  prevent  juvenile
delinquency, to  establish  a  Juvenile  Justice  System  for  juveniles  in
conflict with law, to safeguard fundamental rights and to establish  methods
for social re-integration of young people who had suffered incarceration  in
prison or other corrective institutions.  One of the other principles  which
was sought to be reiterated and adopted was that a juvenile should be  dealt
with for an offence in a manner which  is  different  from  an  adult.   The
Beijing Rules indicated that efforts should be made by member  countries  to
establish within their own national jurisdiction, a set of  laws  and  rules
specially applicable to juvenile offenders.  It was stated that the  age  of
criminal responsibility in legal systems that recognize the concept  of  the
age of criminal responsibility for juveniles should not be fixed at too  low
an age-level,  keeping  in  mind  the  emotional,  mental  and  intellectual
maturity of children.

42.     Four years after the adoption  of  the  Beijing  Rules,  the  United
Nations adopted  the  Convention  on  the  Rights  of  the  Child  vide  the
Resolution of the General Assembly No.  44/25  dated  20th  November,  1989,
which came into  force  on  2nd  September,  1990.   India  is  not  only  a
signatory to the said Convention, but has also ratified  the  same  on  11th
December, 1992.  The said Convention sowed the seeds  of  the  enactment  of
the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children)  Act,  2000,  by  the
Indian Parliament.

43.     India developed its own jurisprudence relating to children  and  the
recognition of their rights.  With the adoption of the Constitution on  26th
November 1949, constitutional safeguards, as far as weaker sections  of  the
society, including  children,  were  provided  for.   The  Constitution  has
guaranteed several rights to children, such  as  equality  before  the  law,
free and compulsory primary education to children between the age  group  of
six to fourteen years, prohibition  of  trafficking  and  forced  labour  of
children and  prohibition  of  employment  of  children  below  the  age  of
fourteen  years  in  factories,  mines  or   hazardous   occupations.    The
Constitution enables the State Governments to make  special  provisions  for
children.  To prevent female foeticide,  the  Pre-conception  and  Pre-natal
Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex  Selection)  Act  was  enacted  in
1994.  One of the latest enactments  by  Parliament  is  the  Protection  of
Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

44.     The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of  Children)  Act,  2000,
is in  tune  with  the  provisions  of  the  Constitution  and  the  various
Declarations and Conventions adopted by the world community  represented  by
the United Nations.  The basis of fixing of  the  age  till  when  a  person
could be treated as a child at eighteen years in the Juvenile Justice  (Care
and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, was Article 1 of  the  Convention  of
the Rights of the Child, as was brought to our notice  during  the  hearing.
Of course, it has been submitted by  Dr.  Kishor  that  the  description  in
Article 1 of the Convention was a contradiction in terms.   While  generally
treating eighteen to be the age till which a person could be treated  to  be
a child, it also indicates that the same was variable  where  national  laws
recognize the age of majority earlier.  In this regard,  one  of  the  other
considerations which weighed with the  legislation  in  fixing  the  age  of
understanding at eighteen years is on account of the  scientific  data  that
indicates that the brain continues to develop and  the  growth  of  a  child
continues till he reaches at least the age of eighteen years and that it  is
at that point of time  that  he  can  be  held  fully  responsible  for  his
actions.  Along with physical growth, mental growth  is  equally  important,
in assessing the maturity of a person below the age of eighteen  years.   In
this connection, reference may be made to the chart provided by  Mr.  Kanth,
wherein the various laws relating to children generally  recognize  eighteen
years to be the age for reckoning a person as a  juvenile/  child  including
criminal offences.

45.     In any event, in the absence of any proper data,  it  would  not  be
wise on our part to deviate from the  provisions  of  the  Juvenile  Justice
(Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, which represent the  collective
wisdom of Parliament.  It may not be out of place to  mention  that  in  the
Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, male children above the  age  of  sixteen  years
were considered to be adults, whereas girl children were treated  as  adults
on attaining the age of eighteen years.  In the Juvenile Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children)  Act,  2000,  a  conscious  decision  was  taken  by
Parliament to raise the age of male juveniles/children to eighteen years.

46.     In recent years, there has been a spurt in  criminal  activities  by
adults, but not so by juveniles, as the materials produced before  us  show.
The age limit which was  raised  from  sixteen  to  eighteen  years  in  the
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, is a  decision
which was taken by the Government, which is strongly in favour of  retaining
Sections 2(k) and 2(l) in the manner in  which  it  exists  in  the  Statute
Book.

47.     One misunderstanding of  the  law  relating  to  the  sentencing  of
juveniles, needs to be corrected.  The general understanding of  a  sentence
that can be awarded to a juvenile under Section 15(1)(g)  of  the   Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, prior to its  amendment
in 2006, is that after attaining the age of eighteen years, a  juvenile  who
is found guilty of a  heinous  offence  is  allowed  to  go  free.   Section
15(1)(g), as it stood before  the  amendment  came  into  effect  from  22nd
August, 2006, reads as follows:

           "15(1)(g)    make an order directing the juvenile to be sent  to
           a special home for a period of three years:


           (i) in case of juvenile, over  seventeen  years  but  less  than
           eighteen years of age, for a period of not less than two years;


           (ii) in case of any other  juvenile  for  the  period  until  he
           ceases to be a juvenile:


                Provided that the Board may, if it is satisfied that having
           regard to the nature of the offence and the circumstances of the
           case, it is expedient so to do,  for  reasons  to  be  recorded,
           reduce the period of stay to such period as it thinks fit."




        It was generally perceived that a juvenile was free to go,  even  if
he had committed a heinous crime, when he ceased to be a juvenile.

        The said understanding needs to  be  clarified  on  account  of  the
amendment which came into force with effect  from  22.8.2006,  as  a  result
whereof Section 15(1)(g) now reads as follows:

           "Make an order directing the juvenile to be sent  to  a  special
           home for a period of three years:


                Provided that the Board may if it is satisfied that  having
           regard to the nature of the offence and the circumstances of the
           case, it is expedient so to  do,  for  reasons  to  be  recorded
           reduce the period of stay to such period as it thinks fit."



        The aforesaid amendment now makes it clear that even if  a  juvenile
attains the age of eighteen years within a  period  of  one  year  he  would
still have to undergo a sentence of three years, which  could  spill  beyond
the period of one year when he attained majority.

48.     There is yet another consideration which  appears  to  have  weighed
with the worldwide community, including India, to  retain  eighteen  as  the
upper limit to which persons could be treated  as  children.   In  the  Bill
brought in Parliament for  enactment  of  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children) Act of 2000, it has been  indicated  that  the  same
was being  introduced  to  provide  for  the  care,  protection,  treatment,
development and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent juveniles and  for
the  adjudication  of  certain  matters  relating  to  and  disposition   of
delinquent juveniles.   The  essence  of  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and
Protection of Children) Act, 2000, and the Rules framed thereunder in  2007,
is restorative and not retributive, providing  for  rehabilitation  and  re-
integration of children in conflict with law into mainstream  society.   The
age of eighteen has been fixed on account of the  understanding  of  experts
in child psychology and behavioural patterns  that  till  such  an  age  the
children in conflict with law  could  still  be  redeemed  and  restored  to
mainstream society,  instead  of  becoming  hardened  criminals  in  future.
There are, of course, exceptions where a child in the age group  of  sixteen
to eighteen may have developed criminal propensities, which  would  make  it
virtually  impossible  for  him/her  to  be  re-integrated  into  mainstream
society, but such examples are not of such proportions  as  to  warrant  any
change in thinking, since it is probably  better  to  try  and  re-integrate
children with criminal propensities into mainstream society, rather than  to
allow them to develop into hardened criminals, which  does  not  augur  well
for the future.

49.     This being the understanding of the Government behind the  enactment
of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of  Children)  Act,  2000,  and
the amendments effected thereto in 2006,  together  with  the  Rules  framed
thereunder in 2007, and the data available with regard to the commission  of
heinous offences by children, within the meaning of Sections 2(k)  and  2(l)
of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000,  we  do
not think that any interference is necessary  with  the  provisions  of  the
Statute till such time as  sufficient  data  is  available  to  warrant  any
change in the provisions of the aforesaid Act and the Rules.  On  the  other
hand, the implementation of the various  enactments  relating  to  children,
would possibly yield better results.

50.      The  Writ  Petitions  and  the  Transferred  Case  are,  therefore,
dismissed, with the aforesaid observations.  There  shall,  however,  be  no
order as to costs.



.........................................................CJI.
                                        (ALTAMAS KABIR)




...............................................................J.
                                        (SURINDER SINGH NIJJAR)




...............................................................J.
                                        (J. CHELAMESWAR)