Had the proposed amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act been in place, the hostel warden who forced a 10-yr-old residential student of Santiniketan’s Patha Bhavan to drink her own urine last week could have found herself behind bars for five years.
The Women & Child Development ministry, which has proposed the changes to the Juvenile Justice Act, being renamed as the Child Justice (Care, Protection and Rehabilitation of Children) Act, has not been able to finalise the changes so far.
For corporal punishment involving simple injury and emotional distress to the child, a jail term of up to a year is being proposed under the amended law. For subsequent offences, it would be three years. A second conviction would mean dismissal from service.
To protect children in educational institutions, the government has for the first time defined corporal punishment and ragging in the proposed changes to the Act. A five-year imprisonment has been proposed if a child is grievously hurt or subjected to severe mental trauma. A repeat of such an offence would invite a seven-year jail term. Tough measures have also been proposed to check severe ragging — up to two years' imprisonment, a fine of Rs. 10,000 or both. Ragging by an institution's staff would put them at the risk of dismissal and a ban on working with children.
A ministry official said, "We are in the process of finalising the changes. After that we will go to the cabinet for approval." Sources said given the tardy speed in finalising the changes, the amended bill is not likely to be tabled during the monsoon session of Parliament.