The government has finally prepared a draft to amend the provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act to reduce the age of juvenility from 18 years to 16 years in case of heinous offences.
Enacted by the former Governor Narinder Nath Vohra on June 20, 2018 to consolidate and amend the law relating to children under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of the Children) Act, 2013, the draft allows children aged 16 to 18 to be tried as adults for “heinous crimes”.
The draft, a copy of which is in possession of Rising Kashmir, reads that in case of a heinous offence alleged to have been committed by a child, who has completed or is above the age of sixteen years, the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) shall conduct a preliminary assessment with regard to his mental and physical capacity to commit such offence, ability to understand the consequences of the offence and the circumstances in which he allegedly committed the offence.
According to the draft, if the Board after preliminary assessment passes an order that there is a need for trial of the said child as an adult, then the Board may order transfer of the trial of the case to the children’s court having jurisdiction to try such offences.
“The inquiry of heinous offences for child below the age of 16 years shall be disposed by the JJB, following the procedure for trial in summons cases under the code of criminal procedure, Samvat 1989,” reads the draft.
However, the draft said the age of criminal liability should not be lowered to 16 years in case of heinous offence where it is felt that the child needs special attention while understanding the circumstances which have resulted in such a personality.
“It should be understood the developmental issues, attachment pattern, social functioning and over all mental health of the child needs special attention and all the factors needs to be taken in into consideration while understanding the circumstances which have resulted in such a personality,” draft reads.
The draft said a preliminary assessment in case of heinous offences shall be disposed of by the Board within a period of three months from the date of first production of the child before the Board.
Though the Central legislation viz the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of the Children) Act, was amended in year 2016, by which the age of a juvenile has been brought down from 18 years to 16 years in case of heinous offences, no such amendment was carried out to the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, which is applicable in the state.
During the 2016 unrest, several juveniles were detained by the police.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 102 crimes committed by juveniles were recorded in the state in 2014, 181 in 2015 and 198 in 2016. Of the 198 juveniles arrested in 2016, at least 109 were held for rioting.