Child rights activists in Bhopal have called the Juvenile Justice Bill 2014, a regressive step and have criticised the bill on many fronts. Many experts and activists view post December 2012 Delhi gang rape responses, as creation of media sensationalism on the issue, and have cautioned against any regressive move to disturb the momentum of juvenile justice legislation in the country.
Talking to HT, a child rights activist Prashant Dubey said, “The bill is not balanced. It says that penalty for cruelty against a child is just three years, the punishment of abduction or selling a child is just five years but the punishment of offering a narcotic substance to a child is seven years.”
“The bill is not in accordance with United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as ratified by India,” he added.
The UNCRC states that signatory countries should treat every child under the age of 18 years in the same manner and not try them as adults.
It recommends that those countries that treat or propose to treat 16-18 year old as adult criminals, change their laws to align with the principle of non-discrimination towards children.
The bill is also facing criticism for the possible violation of Articles 14, 21 and 20(1) of the Constitution.
Another activist Amarjeet Singh has expressed his concern over how children would be treated in session’s court “According to the current bill the child would be sent to trial in a children’s court, but in the case of Madhya Pradesh there is no children’s court present so a child would be sent for a trail in a session’s court and the treatment would be very different there. According to the act of 2000 no record of the juvenile would be withheld by the board so that they can lead a progressive life but the bill of 2014 says that such records would be withheld.”
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are complaining that several of their suggestions were not taken into consideration while forming this bill and hence discrepancies might arise.
Child rights activist Archana Sahay said, “When the bill was coming into shape, suggestions were invited from all of us, but when the bill was prepared those suggestions were not implemented at all. We had written quite a few mails to MPs, regarding the discrepancies of this act but they did not respond to it. My NGO and some other NGOs are making efforts to sensitise people regarding this act.”
On Tuesday, three organizations working for child welfare in Bhopal — Aarambh , Aawaz and Muskaan — had collaboratively organised a discussion on Juvenile Justice Bill, 2014, to make people aware about the discrepancies of the bill. The bill replaces the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, which deals with children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.