Current Affairs (2nd August 2021)
Juvenile Justice Bill
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021, which seeks to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, was passed in Rajya Sabha.
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:
- The Act was introduced and passed in Parliament in 2015 to replace the Juvenile Delinquency Law and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act) 2000.
- One of the main provisions of the new Act is allowing the trial of juveniles in conflict with law in the age group of 16-18 years as adults, in cases where the crimes were to be determined.
- The nature of the crime, and whether the juvenile should be tried as a minor or a child, was to be determined by a Juvenile Justice Board.
- This provision received impetus after the 2012 Delhi gangrape in which one of the accused was just short of 18 years and was therefore tried as a juvenile.
- The second major provision is with regards to adoption, bringing a more universally acceptable adoption law instead of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956) and Guardians of the Ward Act (1890) which was for Muslims, although the Act did not replace these laws.
- The Act streamlined adoption procedures for orphans, abandoned and surrendered children and the existing Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) has been given the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
Need of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Amendment) Bill, 2021:
- Women and Child Development Minister, who tabled the Bill in Rajya Sabha, said the changes, which give increased powers and responsibilities to District Magistrates, were being made to not only ensure speedy trials and increased protection of children at the district level, with checks and balances in place, but to also speed up the adoption processes in the country.
Powers of District Magistrates:
- With more powers, the District Magistrates (DMs), including Additional DMs (ADMs), can now issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act.
- DMs and ADMs will also monitor the functioning of various agencies under the JJ Act in every district.
- These include the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs), Juvenile Justice Boards, District Child Protection Units and Special Juvenile Protection Units.
- The changes will ensure speedy trials and increased protection of children at the district level, and will also enhance accountability.
- Adoption processes are currently under the purview of courts. With an overwhelming backlog, each adoption case could take years to be passed.
- The DMs will also carry out background checks of CWC members to check for possible criminal backgrounds.
- This is to ensure that no cases of child abuse or child sexual abuse is found against any member before they are appointed.
- The CWCs should report regularly to the DMs on their activities in the districts.
- Concern – The DM oversees all processes in a district including all task forces and review meetings.
- So, it is felt that the too many responsibilities given to DMs under the amendment may not be given a priority.
What are the changes made in offences by juveniles?
- Under the 2015 Act, offences committed by juveniles are categorised as heinous offences, serious offences, and petty offences.
- Most heinous crimes have a minimum or maximum sentence of 7 years, and juveniles between 16-18 years age would be tried as adults for these.
- Serious offences generally include offences with 3 to 7 years of imprisonment.
- The 2021 Bill adds that serious offences will also include offences for which maximum punishment is imprisonment of more than 7 years, and minimum punishment is not prescribed or is less than 7 years.
- Presently, there is no mention of a minimum sentence in the JJ Act.
- So, juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years could also be tried as adults for a crime like the possession and sale of an illegal substance.
- Such offences will now fall under the ambit of a “serious crime’’.
- The provisions thus ensure that children, as much as possible, are protected and kept out of the adult justice system.
- The Act also provides that offences against children that are punishable with imprisonment of more than 7 years, will be tried in the Children’s Court.
- And offenses with punishments of less than 7 years imprisonment will be tried by a Judicial Magistrate.
What is the need for the Amendment now?
- NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) filed a report in 2018-19, surveying 7,000 Child Care Institutions (CCIs or children’s homes).
- Most of the institutions were found breaching the JJ Act regulations and children were found to be in unsanitary conditions in portacabins.
- CCIs fall under the CWC and the state child protection units, but they had very little oversight and monitoring.
- The new amendment is to address these concerns and see to it that no new children’s home can be opened without the sanction of the DM.
- To ensure proper implementation, the DMs will have to hold regular fortnightly meetings with all five arms – CWC, JJ Board, CCI, district child protection units and special juvenile police units.
- Specific training in child protection rules will also have to be imparted, as DMs usually are not trained or equipped to deal with these specific laws.
- Taking the first step towards having a digital currency in the country, Prime Minister will launch an electronic voucher based digital payment system “e-RUPI”.
- The platform, which has been developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the National Health Authority, will be a person-specific and purpose-specific payments system.
How will e-RUPI work?
- e-RUPI is a cashless and contactless digital payment medium, which will be delivered to mobile phones of beneficiaries in form of an SMS-string or a QR code.
- This will essentially be like a prepaid gift-voucher that will be redeemable at specific accepting centres without any credit or debit card, a mobile app or internet banking.
- e-RUPI will connect the sponsors of the services with the beneficiaries and service providers in a digital manner without any physical interface.
How will these vouchers be issued?
- The system has been built by NPCI on its UPI platform and has onboarded banks that will be the issuing entities.
- Any corporate or government agency will have to approach the partner banks, which are both private and public-sector lenders, with the details of specific persons and the purpose for which payments have to be made.
- The beneficiaries will be identified using their mobile number and a voucher allocated by a bank to the service provider in the name of a given person would only be delivered to that person.
- Recently, some men found themselves unable to breathe after they entered the tank for manual scavenging.
- Manual Scavenging is defined as the removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, cleaning septic tanks, gutters and sewers.
- In the past, this referred to the practice of removing excreta from dry latrines.
- However, new modern sanitation technologies brought new forms of manual scavenging work, which include manual and unsafe cleaning of drains, sewer lines, septic tanks and latrine pits.
- Scavenging is mostly carried out by a subgroup of the Dalits, an outcast community also known as “untouchables” within India’s ancient system of caste hierarchies.
- “Untouchables” are often impoverished, shunned by society and forbidden from touching Indians of other castes, or even their food.
- Scavenging continues in parts of India largely due to governmental indifference and social prejudice.
- There is a complete absence of planning for the maintenance of sewerage, septic tanks, and waste disposal systems in the urban policies made for the city by the state and private companies.
- The number of people killed while cleaning sewers and septic tanks has increased over the last few years.
- 2019 saw the highest number of manual scavenging deaths in the past five years.
- Recently, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has been working for faster implementation of gender budgeting.
- The Ministry has made consistent efforts to support the institutionalization of Gender Budgeting (GB) at the State/UT level.
- Steps Taken by States/UT: 27 States/UTs have adopted Gender Budgeting and have taken various steps to address gender gaps and advance gender equality.
- Nodal Department: These steps inter-alia include identification of a nodal Department for Gender Budgeting, constitution of Gender Budgeting Cells, formulation of State Women/Girls Policy, creation of Gender Data Bank and adding Gender Budget Statement in the State Budget.
- Additionally, 21 States/UTs have established designated State Nodal Centres for sustained capacity building efforts on Gender Budgeting.
- Handbook by Ministry: The Ministry has developed a handbook for Gender Budgeting to further strengthen the process of institutionalizing gender mechanisms across sectors and across all levels of governance.
- Financial Support: The Ministry also provides financial support to Government training institutions for capacity building of Government officials to enhance Gender Budgeting at the State/UT level.