ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Not in the Child’s Name

The lack of qualitative case law reporting on juvenile crime leaves a gap that is largely unrecognised and leads to the law mirroring social realities rather than functioning as a beacon of social transformation. 

In “Understanding Juvenile Crime: Notes from the Field” (EPW, 9 January 2016), Malvika Tyagi writes about the lack of awareness about the juvenile justice system among inmates of juvenile homes. I would like to consider another aspect about this issue. The amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act resulting in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 brings down the age of criminal responsibility to 16 years. This signal defeat of the rights of children may or may not make some adults safe. However, when translated into children’s lives, the effects are quite dramatic. The social media is rife with suggestions that the amendment will mean that from now on, every year, at least 10,000 children will be transferred to adult prisons.

Before the juvenile justice amendment was passed, despite the vociferous debates on television and elsewhere, the period witnessed a significant reduction in support within the opposition parties. The majority party in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress which had, within committees, opposed the reduction in the age of criminal responsibility, changed its position and supported the amendments, thus ensuring a smooth passage for the first legislative about-turn on children’s rights in decades.

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