JJ Act: DCPCR challenges in SC reclassification of serious offences against children as non-cognizable

Four more State child rights bodies have asked Union govt to reverse this amendment

May 15, 2022 07:25 pm | Updated 07:25 pm IST

Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India | Photo Credit: File Photo

The Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has now moved a plea in the Supreme Court, challenging an amendment made to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act last year which reclassifies serious offences (maximum imprisonment of three to seven years) against children as non-cognizable.

The amendment that has been challenged makes changes to Section 86 of the Principal Act.

The offences that have been made non-cognizable through this change include the sale and procurement of children, exploitation of child employees, use of children for begging, use of children for vending, smuggling or trafficking narcotics, and cruelty committed upon children by staff of the Child Care Institutions (CCIs), among others.

The child rights body's move to challenge the amendment in the Supreme Court comes a month after it and the state child rights bodies of Punjab, West Bengal, Chandigarh, and Rajasthan had written to the Union government seeking a Bill be tabled in Parliament to reverse this reclassification of offences.

Without a reply or acknowledgment of the child rights bodies' recommendations from the Union government since April 8, the DCPCR has now filed a writ petition in the Apex court, seeking that the said amendment be declared unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

In their recommendation letter to the Union government, the five child rights bodies had pointed out that making these offences non-cognizable would make reporting them even more difficult - especially for children from marginalised communities, who are most often the victims of such crimes.

They had said that this was because, under the Code of Criminal Procedure, the police cannot on its own register an FIR in non-cognizable offences. They can only do so with an order from the concerned magistrate, thereby unnecessarily complicating the process of reporting such serious crimes.

The child rights bodies also pointed out another anomaly in the amendment, according to which these crimes are serious enough to be non-bailable but not serious enough to be cognizable.

Significantly, just one of the crimes reclassified in this amendment - crimes against children by staff or heads of CCIs - has been increasing consistently across the country since 2017 before dipping in the pandemic year 2020, according to data available with the National Crime Records Bureau.

Moreover, the child rights bodies, in their letter to the Union government, cited studies to claim that there are over 33 lakh child beggars in the country and that over 44,000 children fall into the clutches of gangs annually.

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