Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

Assessing Juvenility a ‘Delicate Task’: SC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: JJ Act

Mains level: Prevention of juvenile crimes

The Supreme Court has given some guidelines for the delicate task of deciding whether juveniles aged between 16 and 18, accused of heinous offences such as murder can be tried like adults as per the JJ Act, 2005.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

  • The JJ Act, 2015 replaced the Indian juvenile delinquency law, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
  • It allows for juveniles in conflict with Law in the age group of 16–18, involved in Heinous Offences, to be tried as adults.
  • The Act also sought to create a universally accessible adoption law for India.
  • The Act came into force from 15 January 2016.

Key features

  • Change in nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’, across the Act to remove the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”
  • Inclusion of several new definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children; and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children;
  • Setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.
  • Special provisions for heinous offences committed by children above the age of 16 years: This was in response to the juvenile convict in Nirbhaya Case.
  • Inclusion of new offences committed against children:  Sale and procurement of children for any purpose including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, use of child by militant groups, offences against disabled children and, kidnapping and abduction of children.
  • Penalties for cruelty against a child: Offering a narcotic substance to a child, and abduction or selling a child has been prescribed.

What is the recent Supreme Court assessment?

  • The “delicate task” of deciding whether juveniles aged between 16 and 18, accused of heinous offences such as murder, can be tried like adults should be based on meticulous psychological investigation.
  • They should not left to the discretion and perfunctory “wisdom” of juvenile justice boards and children’s courts across the country, the Court held.

What delicate tasks does the apex court is referring to?

(1) Preliminary Assessment

  • Section 15 of the JJ Act requires a “preliminary assessment” to be done of the mental and physical capacity of juveniles, aged between 16 and 18, who are involved in serious crimes.
  • The assessment is meant to gauge a child’s ability to understand the consequences of the offence and the circumstances in which he or she allegedly committed the offence.
  • If the Juvenile Justice Board is of the opinion that the juvenile should not be treated as an adult, it would not pass on the case to the children’s court and hear the case itself.
  • If the Board decides to refer the case to the children’s court for trial as an adult, the juvenile, if guilty, would even face life imprisonment.

(2) Mental capacity

  • The evaluation of ‘mental capacity and ability to understand the consequences’ of the child in conflict with law can should not be relegated as a routine task.
  • The process of taking a decision on which the fate of the child in conflict with law precariously rests, should not be taken without conducting a meticulous psychological evaluation.
  • The court said the Board which conducts the assessment of the child should have at least one child psychologist.

Way forward

  • The court discovered that there were neither guidelines nor a specific framework in place for conduct of the preliminary assessment.
  • The court left it open for the Centre and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to consider issuing guidelines or directions in this regard.
  • It should further take the assistance of experienced psychologists or psychosocial workers.


UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch