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A Non Judicial Juvenile Justice System with Judicial Attitude: Scope for Participation in the Juvenile Justice Board. Jaya Ghosh PhD Student, School of Law, Lancaster University . Implementation of global policies at local level.
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PhD Student, School of Law,
The acceptance of the United Nations Child Rights Convention almost universally has given rise to many debates and discussions regarding its proper implementation at a domestic level. Given the contemporary debates and discourses around child rights in global platforms as well as in India, this presentation explores the right to participation of children in the Juvenile Justice System (JJS) specifically in the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) at the district level in Bihar, India
Under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2000, the Indian state divides children in two categories:
The infamous case of the Delhi gang rape in December 2012 and involvement of a juvenile in the case have stirred up debates on the ways young offenders should be handled by the Juvenile Justice System (JJS) across India. This case have created a moral panic like situation, depicting young offenders as monsters and a threat to societal values and interests (Cohen, 1987) not very different from the James Bulger case (Thomas, 1993). Labelling the current JJS as lenient for such children, demands to review the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act 2006 were made through many written petitions filed in various courts in India. This is not an uncommon trend as globally youth justice is turning more punitive towards children against the widely held commitment to act within the guidelines established by various children’s rights conventions (Muncie, 2008).
“The Principal Magistrate, who is a member of the judicial service and is used to the provisions of the Code, has to undergo a complete mental metamorphosis and attitudinal transformation while discharging his or her duties under the 2000 Act.”
(Justice Altamas Kabir, The former Chief Justice of India, 2008)
The Juvenile Justice Board, which is empowered to deal with the children in conflict with the law consists of a Principal Magistrate and two members .The Judiciary: The Juvenile Justice Board
“We from judiciary are doing our work but the social welfare department has more responsibility towards these children and its their job to implement the JJS properly.”
Principle Magistrate, JJJB, Patna, 2011
“The JJS in Bihar is still in an experimental process. The people working in the system are still not clear about their roles and responsibilities for example the Police are still working as they used to work before we had this Act. We need more training on this Act in Bihar.”
Member, JJB, Patna, 2011
“The JJB is not a court but it is still running as a court. The whole concept of best interest of child is lost in legal complications e.g. Age determination, bail, etc.”
Lawyer practicing at the JJB, Patna, 2011
“You tell me? How could you call it a board when you have to hire lawyers who argue for us ? I was transferred to this ‘baccha court’ from there (adult court). How this ‘board’ is different from that court? The system here is exactly same as that court. Everything is same except its here(OH). They(Lawyers) take dates for us and we have to spend money. This is a court Didi (Sister)!”
“There is something wrong with the system. One person is more powerful than the others. I think they should have equal power. We know ‘Judge Sahib’ don’t let the ‘Member Sahib’ take decision. If that is not the case then they can give us bail single handed which they don’t.”
“The judge sahib just looks at the section not the child and if it is serious he just pass it on. If it is an offence like murder or kidnapping they don’t even read the case file and just reject it. No questions. No chance for bail. Many times we are told by older boys that it’s better to get rejected from here so you can file for bail in the higher court. Some of the boys did that too. It is just waste of money and time here.”
“We think they should have someone who tell us about the system. ‘Bhaiya log’ (older children) tell us about it. We also don’t know what is going on inside the board only that something is going on. This is very important that someone who tells us what we need to do. What is the progress of our cases? No one gives us such information. The court people don’t tell us anything. They just say ‘go upstairs and don’t come down. Just keep quiet’.”
Amit, 12 years
“Judge Sahib never talks. Everyone is very scared of him. He doesn’t even look at the file and rejects bail. But Member sahib talks to us. Once when he was alone in the boards he did not let the lawyers say anything and said that only children will speak.”
Mukesh, 14 years
“I feel they should allow us to talk. We do not have that right. Sometimes children do not even know if their case has come up. Wakil (Lawyer) Sahib says that I should keep my head down and do not say anything unless asked. But Judge Sahib never asks us if we have done anything or not? What do you do or why you are here. They just look at some children’s faces and declare juvenile. They do not even ask questions. There is no scope of anyone talking to you.”
Rajesh, 13 years
“I think a few children should also sit in the board. There are some older boys who help in managing the JJB here for some time. Children should get feedback from them peer and that will give us some power. They could be the best judge as they know everything about us which even ‘judge sahib doesn’t know.”
Nirmal, 15 year
C 16, Bowland North,