“This is a welcome relief for children in J&K,” averred Bal Raksha Bharat, even as it praised the J&K government, following the passing of the Juvenile Justice Act in the state yesterday, which puts it at par with the National Act for ensuring reform of juveniles rather than detention. The J&K Legislative Assembly has passed the J&K Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2013 with a minor amendment. It voted unanimously to raise the bar of juvenile age to 18 years from the present 16 years. Under the new law, J&K would now officially recognize an 18-year-old teenager as a minor.
Twenty five years of conflict in J&K has caused severe disruption to the education and protection of children and the children and the communities have lived in an atmosphere of fear and trauma. The overall protective environment is weak — leaving children even more vulnerable to exploitation and violence. In 2012, India completed two decades of ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Many legislations, policies, programs have been evolved during this period to ensure that all children have the right to live in a protective environment. The government of J&K has taken various initiatives to ensure that the children are protected from abuse, exploitation, violence.
The Juvenile Justice Act was enacted in J&K, 1997. All the features of the Act have been introduced at the Centre (and thereby in other states in 2000 and amended in 2006). Now, on 28 March 2013, a historical decision has been taken by the state government by amending the JJ Act and bringing it at par with the National Act.
“We congratulate the state government and are happy that the efforts of our team in J&K have paid off — and that children in the state will now be treated on par with children across India in terms of juvenile justice,” says Thomas Chandy, Bal Raksha Bharat’s CEO. Chandy informed that “Bal Raksha Bharat has been actively advocating for the Bill through close cooperation with the state government, its ministers, MLAs, Media and civil society members.” To help create more awareness and a consensus on the issue, Bal Raksha Bharat had consistently advocated over the last four years for amendment of the JJ act.
As per J&K Juvenile Justice Act 1997, children below the age of 16 years were treated as juveniles in the state, while in other states — by virtue of the Central Juvenile Justice Act 2000 — the cut off age of minors is 18. While the Government of India had amended national juvenile justice law to make it consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the state law had remained in violation of the convention.
Summary of steps taken by Bal Raksha Bharat in J&K:
- Training of all district social welfare officers.
- Bal Raksha Bharat and social welfare department worked on a comparative analysis of national and state acts and presented the findings to the state government.
- Advocated with Chief Minister, concerned ministers, MLAs and government officials.
- Training provided to police personnel and NGOs.
- Worked closely with the Media on this issue.
Bal Raksha Bharat has been working in J&K for over 30 years and currently works in 15 states in India for children’s rights — to ensure that every child has a happy and healthy childhood.