Critics and Supporters of the Amended Act

The passage of the amended Juvenile Justice Act which treats children aged between 16 and 18 as adults for heinous crimes, brought out sharp divisions in the legal fraternity.
The section opposing it felt that it would adversely impact the rehabilitation of juveniles in conflict with the law.
Some questioned the discretionary powers given to the Juvenile Justice Board to transfer them to criminal courts for trial and punishment. Their contention was that as the JJB was presided over by the chief judicial magistrates of districts, there was a high probability of these children being transferred to adult courts.
The dissenters argued that overly harsh punishment was unlikely to prove to be a deterrent, and more than likely to push the children into becoming hardcore criminals.
This section critiqued the Act for choosing to be retributive rather than reformative.
However, those who back the amended Act point to reports saying that the most aggressive among the juveniles who brutalised the you…

Amended Juvenile Justice Act

The amended Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act was passed by the Lok Sabha on 7 May, 2015 and by the Rajya Sabha on 22 December. It received Presidential assent on 31 December and became law on 1 January, 2016.  
Section 15 of the amended act makes special provisions for child offenders aged 16 or above, who are accused of heinous offences such as murder and rape. Now such children are liable to be treated as adults. Until its passage, children below 18 could only be sent to correction homes and held for a maximum period of three years. Now, however, even a 16-year-old who is convicted for committing a heinous crime can face a life term.   
The amendment was made following the huge public outcry in the December 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape case in which one of the alleged rapists got off with a three-year probation because he fell some months short of 18, which until then was considered the age of entering adulthood.
Under the new dispensation the Juvenile Justice Board is…

Some Children from SPYM’s Kingsway Camp Centre - Part 2

Please note that all names have been changed to protect identity.
Rocky, a 14-year-old from Alipur in Delhi, says he committed petty thefts to buy ganja, which he claims he smoked only occasionally. But it is clear that his drug dependence was large enough to make him take occasional risks.
He got caught one night while he was stealing petrol from a bike in his neighbourhood. He had stolen petrol thrice from the same area and got away with it. But this time the act was captured on a CCTV camera in the locality. “I begged them to take money from me pleading that a jail term would ruin my life. But I not only got locked up for the night but was also tortured,” he claims. “The cops heated a knife and placed it on the soles of my feet.”   
The next day they took him to Prayas. Rocky claims that he was able to smoke ganja on the sly after he befriended an inmate. If Rocky is to be believed this friend bribed the guard on sentry duty to smuggle in the drug. He says he was discovered smok…

Some Children from SPYM’s Kingsway Camp Centre

Please note that all names have been changed to protect identity.
His family is considerably better off than of many others who are admitted to the Kingsway Camp centre, in which most children come from indigent households. Saurabh’s brother is a manager at a small call centre and his mother sells cheap kitchenware. At home are also his father, who is bedridden, and his grandfather.
Saurabh used mephedrone, smack and ganja. He would crush the mephedrone crystals into a fine powder, and then snort it. The high the drug gave him lasted for four to five hours. He also smoked up to seven packs of smack in a single day. (Mephedrone is a synthetic stimulant, known as an amphetamine and a cathinone, and was one of the first, new psychoactive substances available on the international market. Similar to ecstasy, mephedrone has distinctive emotional and social effects on the user. A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests that mephedrone use involves similar effect…

Juvenile Crimes under the Influence of Drugs

The SPYM centre at Kingsway Camp in New Delhi houses drug-dependent children who have also been convicted of committing crimes. So as not to add any further to their trauma, direct questions are best avoided: one simply listens to their narratives and goes back to their case diaries should there be any dots to connect.
Yet in most cases the juveniles readily admit to their crimes, sometimes even with a sense of bravado. This is more so once confidentiality has been assured and trust gained. Then they open up about their lives, both past and present, quite easily.
Prolonged drug abuse has scarred some of them deeply. This was clear from their poor physique, erratic responses and sluggish body language. These of course are variable, alternately depending on the duration of their addiction, individual temperaments and family backgrounds.
Most of the children come from broken, dysfunctional homes that are in a perennial state of conflict. Drug-using youth from this teeming underclass are f…

Giving Children a Chance - Part 5

He quickly admits to having been dependent on drugs, but unlike many others seems positive about the future. He was dependent on inhalants and ganja, and says he tried smack only once. We ask him if he is lying, to which he replies, “I am not lying to you, because I know that if I do I will only be delaying my recovery”.
Then without much prompting from us he starts talking about his first encounter with inhalants. He and his friends would go to a park to do the hits. “They said it was sweet, and so I took it. Actually it tasted bitter, but gradually I developed a liking for the sensation the drugs produced. This continued for months when one day my mother got suspicious upon seeing my bloodshot eyes.” He says he has been at the SPYM centre for exactly two months and seven days. When we ask how he is so sure of it, he says it’s because he has been counting the days ever since he came here. He is keen to go back home, and if it were possible he would do so this very day, he says.

Giving Children a Chance - Part 4

Dheeraj, 15, lived with his parents in Punjabi Bagh. He claims that he smoked ganja and biris but never had any other intoxicants. But his case history shows he had used inhalants for nearly a year. There are two large tattoos on his arms for which he remembers paying Rs 180 in Karol Bagh. “All the boys had them, so I too went along,” he says. He also acknowledged that it was the same kind of peer pressure that drove children to substance use.  Dheeraj says he bunked classes every day. He would hide his school bag behind bushes and then roam around with his friends. After he had had his drug fix, which he bought with stolen money, he would retrieve his bag and go home. But his lies were soon detected and he was brought to SPYM by his mother.
This 12-year-old boy from Rajashan is, as SPYM’s counsellor Ms. D.S. Anuradha says, “a very delicate case”. He rarely answers questions, and when prodded tends to repeat the question. For instance when we ask, “What substances did you a…