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This article is written by Nanditha k s of IFIM Law School, Bengaluru.


According to Black Law’s Dictionary, a juvenile is “a child, a young person who is below the age of adulthood or the majority.” The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015 defines a juvenile as a “child below the age of eighteen years.”[1] Offenses committed by children under eighteen years old are held with JJ Act. Unless like adult offenders, juvenile offenders are to be treated with more care firstly, because of the vulnerability that comes with their age. Secondly, the chances of the reformation of young minds have high chances. Thus, it becomes very substantial for a country to have juvenile laws.


Role of juvenile justice system, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015


The history of the juvenile justice system in India can be traced back to the British colonial period. During that time, the British government enacted the Apprentices Act of 1850, which aimed to provide for the care, protection, and reform of juvenile offenders. After India gained independence in 1947, the government of independent India recognized the need for a separate juvenile justice system and passed the Children Act of 1960. However, recognizing the limitations of the Children Act, the Indian government enacted a more comprehensive legislation in 1986, known as the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA) of 1986. The JJA of 1986 underwent several amendments over the years to address the evolving needs of the juvenile justice system. One of the major amendments came in 2000 when the government passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, which repealed the 1986 act.

Another significant development in the history of the Indian juvenile justice system occurred in 2015. In response to public outrage over a high-profile case involving a juvenile offender in the Delhi gang rape, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015 was passed. The Act introduced more stringent provisions, allowing for the trial of certain juvenile offenders aged 16 to 18 as adults in cases of heinous offenses.


Juvenile Justice Board

Section 4 of JJ Act provides for estanlishment of Juvenile Justice Board (JJB). It is a specialized judicial body established at the district level to handle cases involving children in conflict with the law. The JJB ensures fair and child-friendly proceedings, protection of rights, and focuses on the rehabilitation and reintegration of such children. It plays a pivotal role in promoting a just and nurturing environment that fosters the holistic development and well-being of children in the juvenile justice system.

  1. Inquiry and determination: The JJB is responsible for conducting inquiries and determining the appropriate course of action for children in conflict with the law (Section 8).
  2. Best interests of the child: The JJB prioritizes the best interests of the child in its decision-making process, considering their overall well-being, development, and long-term interests (Section 3).
  3.  Individualized approach: The JJB takes into account the specific circumstances, background, and needs of each child, adopting an individualized approach in determining the appropriate course of action (Section 12).
  4. Rehabilitation and social reintegration: The JJB focuses on the rehabilitation and social reintegration of children in conflict with the law, providing access to educational, vocational, and skill development programs (Section 18).
  5. Child-friendly proceedings: The primary objective of the procedure is to ensure that all proceedings related to children in conflict with the law are conducted in a child-friendly manner. It aims to create a safe and supportive environment where the child can freely express themselves and participate in the process (Section 10).
  6. Protection of rights: The procedure aims to safeguard the rights of children throughout the legal process. It ensures that the child is treated fairly, with due process, and without discrimination. It guarantees the right to legal assistance, the presumption of innocence, and the right to be heard (Sections 12, 14, 33, 35).
  7. Confidentiality and privacy: The procedure emphasizes the confidentiality and privacy of children involved in the juvenile justice system. It prohibits the disclosure of their identity, address, or personal information in any media or publication, safeguarding their privacy and protecting them from stigmatization (Section 74).
  8. Diversion and rehabilitation: One of the key objectives of the procedure is to promote the principle of diversion. It encourages the use of counseling, guidance, and community service measures as alternatives to formal judicial proceedings, focusing on the rehabilitation and reintegration of the child (Section 15).
  9. Speedy disposal of cases: The procedure aims to ensure the prompt and expeditious disposal of cases involving children in conflict with the law. It sets timelines for different stages of the legal process to prevent unnecessary delays and protect the child’s right to a speedy trial (Sections 14, 17, 33).
  10. Child participation: The procedure recognizes the importance of the child’s participation in the decision-making process. It allows the child to express their views and opinions, ensuring their active involvement in matters affecting them (Section 12).

Child Welfare Committee

Child Welfare Committee (CWC) is a key institution established under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Comprising a panel of experts, the CWC is responsible for handling cases related to children in need of care and protection. It ensures their well-being, protection of rights, and facilitates their rehabilitation. CWC plays a vital role in providing a safe and nurturing environment for children and making decisions in their best interests.

  1. Care and protection: The primary role of the CWC, as per Section 29 of the Act, is to provide care, protection, and rehabilitation for children in need of care and protection. The committee ensures that the best interests of the child are given paramount consideration in all decisions.
  2.  Inquiry and assessment: The CWC conducts inquiries and assessments in cases involving children in need of care and protection. It investigates allegations of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or exploitation to determine the necessary intervention required for the child’s well-being (Section 31).
  3. Rehabilitation and restoration: The CWC takes steps to ensure the rehabilitation and restoration of children in need of care and protection. It formulates individual care plans for each child, including provisions for their education, health, and overall development (Section 39-40).
  4. Placement and adoption: The CWC determines suitable placements for children in need of care and protection. It decides on foster care, adoption, or placement in a children’s home, considering the child’s best interests and following the procedures outlined in the Act.
  5. Monitoring and supervision: The CWC monitors the implementation of care plans for children placed under its care. It conducts regular visits, reviews progress, and ensures that the child’s rights and well-being are protected in the placement or institution (Section 44).
  6. Collaboration and coordination: The CWC collaborates with various stakeholders involved in child welfare, including government agencies, NGOs, and other child protection institutions. It works in coordination with the police, probation officers, and other authorities to ensure the effective implementation of child protection measures (Section 53).
  7. Awareness and advocacy: The CWC plays a role in raising awareness about child rights and child protection issues. It engages in advocacy efforts to promote child welfare, prevention of child abuse, and the importance of child-friendly and rights-based approaches (Section 109).
  8. The JJ Act provides for Observation homes, special homes, and children’s homes. Observation homes serve as temporary shelters for children who are in conflict with the law or in need of care and protection. These homes provide a safe and secure environment for children during the period of inquiry or assessment, ensuring their well-being and protecting their rights. Special homes cater specifically to children in conflict with the law who have been found to have committed offenses. These homes offer comprehensive care, including education, skill development, counseling, and rehabilitation services. The primary objective is to reform and reintegrate these children into society by addressing their behavioral issues and equipping them with the necessary skills to lead productive lives. Children’s homes focus on children in need of care and protection who are not involved in any criminal activities. These homes provide shelter, nutrition, education, healthcare, and emotional support to children who may be abandoned, orphaned, or victims of abuse or neglect. The emphasis is on their overall development and creating a nurturing environment that promotes their well-being.


The JJ Act outlines the role and objectives of adoption as a means of providing a permanent and stable family for children in need of care and protection. Here are the key roles and objectives of adoption under the Act:

  1. Permanent family: The primary objective of adoption is to provide children in need of care and protection with a permanent and loving family environment. Adoption offers them the opportunity to grow up in a stable and nurturing family that can meet their emotional, social, and developmental needs.
  2. Consent and relinquishment: Adoption ensures that the consent of the child, as well as the consent of the biological parents or legal guardian, is obtained in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The Act specifies the circumstances and procedures for obtaining valid consent for adoption (Sections 60-64).
  3. Adoption agencies: The Act recognizes the role of specialized adoption agencies in facilitating the adoption process. These agencies are responsible for ensuring that prospective adoptive parents are assessed, matching them with suitable children, and supervising post-adoption follow-up and support (Sections 65-68).
  4. Adoption procedures: The Act establishes a robust framework for adoption procedures, including the registration of adoption agencies, pre-adoption counseling, home study assessments of prospective adoptive parents, and the preparation of adoption placement orders (Sections 41, 44, 46, 50).
  5.  Eligibility criteria: Adoption under the Act is subject to certain eligibility criteria to ensure the suitability of adoptive parents. These criteria consider factors such as the age, marital status, health, and financial stability of the prospective adoptive parents (Section 57).
  6.  Inter-country adoption: The Act also addresses inter-country adoption, providing guidelines and procedures for the adoption of Indian children by foreign prospective adoptive parents. It aims to safeguard the child’s best interests, prevent child trafficking, and promote ethical adoption practices (Sections 66-68).

The Doctrine of “doli incapax”

The doctrine of doli incapax is a legal principle that presumes children below a certain age lack the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of their actions, thereby absolving them of full criminal responsibility. Derived from Latin, it means “incapable of evil.” This doctrine places the burden of proof on the prosecution to demonstrate that the child possessed the necessary criminal intent despite being below the specified age threshold. It recognizes that children have limited understanding and emphasizes their rehabilitation and welfare over punitive measures, reflecting a focus on their developmental stage and potential for reform.


The role and objectives of the juvenile justice system in India are pivotal in ensuring the care, protection, and rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law and children in need of care and protection. It aims to provide a child-centric and child-friendly approach, prioritizing the best interests of the child in all proceedings and decisions. By establishing specialized institutions such as Juvenile Justice Boards, Child Welfare Committees, observation homes, special homes, and children’s homes, the system ensures fair and just treatment, protection of rights, and opportunities for rehabilitation and social reintegration. The juvenile justice system also emphasizes the importance of education, skill development, counseling, and support services to enable the holistic development of children. Ultimately, the objectives of the system are to safeguard the rights and well-being of children, promote their rehabilitation and reintegration into society, and pave the way for their successful transition into responsible adulthood.





[1] S 2(35), The Juvenile Justice (Care And Protection Of Children) Act, 2015


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