No child aged between 16 and 18 years accused of a crime will reportedly be handcuffed or sent to jail or lock-up, as per the draft rules of the Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015 released by women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi on Wednesday.
The rules, according to a report by the Hindu, call for detailed child-friendly procedures for the functioning and composition of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Board, the police and the children's courts to deal with children charged with committing a crime.
Mint reported that these rules were based on the philosophy of reformation, rehabilitation and social integration, rather than retribution.
"The JJ Board and the children's court are to adhere to the principle of best interest of the child and the objective of rehabilitation and reintegration of child in the society," Gandhi was quoted by Mint as saying after she released the draft rules.
Under the new rules, the JJ Board will have to conduct a preliminary assessment of a child's mental and physical health. It will have to assess the child's ability to understand the consequences of the crime allegedly committed, and its underlying circumstances. The board will be given three months for the completion of the assessment after which the case can be transferred to a children's court for trial, according to Mint. Psychologists, psycho-social workers and other experts will help the board in the assessments.
The Hindu reports that proper legal and medical help would be given to juveniles, and their parents would be duly informed, according to the draft law. The new rules also say all state governments must set up a "place of safety" and provide extensive services for the rehabilitation of juveniles.
According to the Mint report, a child's age has to be determined within 30 days of submitting of application. All government hospitals will have to form permanent medical boards for the purpose.
The draft rules reportedly provide for one child welfare officer to be deployed in a child care institution to ensure a child's development. Their task would be to identify the skills and potential of the child, and facilitate financial support for their self-employment. Detailed procedures for follow-up have also been reportedly included in the draft rules.
State governments would be required by the proposed rules to prepare an after-care scheme for providing education, employment and accommodation to children who turn 18 and leave institutional care.
Several new offences have reportedly been added to the law. They include sale and procurement of children for any purpose, including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child-care institutions, crimes against disabled children, use of children by militants or adult groups, and giving children liquor or narcotics or psychotropic substances or tobacco products.
The draft rules have been put up for consultation and suggestions have been invited from the civil society and other stakeholders within the next 15 days, Mint reported.