Standing firmly against lowering of the age criteria for juveniles accused of heinous crimes including rape, the Justice J.S. Verma Committee report on ‘Amendments to Criminal Law’ has noted that “the Juvenile Justice Act has failed miserably to protect the children in the country. We cannot hold the child responsible for a crime before first providing to him/her the basic rights given to him by the Indian Constitution.’’
The report recommended the creation of a new constitutional authority akin to the Comptroller and Auditor-General for education and non-discrimination in respect of women and children.
Committee member Gopal Subramanium told a press conference that “the issue has to be looked into in its totality. The juvenile homes are unable to provide for the children what is their Constitutional rights and these children without proper and adequate fulfilment of their nutritional, emotional, physical and mental requirements are often not able to contribute productively to the society.”
“We have in our report looked extensively at the condition of homes for children and found them lacking in basic infrastructure and facilities. In these homes children are forced to grow up in the most unhealthy circumstances and are prey to all kinds of sexual offence,” he added.
Stating that the manner in which the Juvenile Justice Act has been implemented showed a complete failure of the State, Justice Verma noted: “It shows apathy but perhaps more importantly it shows vested interests. This is a matter of serious concern. We are informed that the principal magistrate, Juvenile Justice Board, has actually passed orders to segregate juveniles on the basis of age to ensure that younger juveniles with tender and impressionable minds are not mistreated and are kept away from elder juveniles.
“We are also given to understand that no constructive occupational training or schedule has been formulated or are being followed.”
Highlighting the ‘shocking’ number of children who go missing in the country everyday, the report said that “if children can be trafficked it sets the climate for rape culture.”
“Trafficking of women and children is a failure of governance,” Justice Verma said.