SC notifies Centre on plea against amendments to Juvenile Justice Act

The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) petition, which questioned 2015 amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act, has resulted in a notice from the Supreme Court to the Center. The panel argued that it was against the interests of the children to classify as non-cognizable certain serious offences committed against them.

On Monday, a bench of justices Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and Hima Kohli also sought the Attorney General of India’s assistance in the case. Initially, it was inclined to urge the petitioner to approach the Supreme Court.

But advocate Prateek K Chadha, who represented the panel, told the bench that five state commissions have written to the Centre expressing reservations over the amendments. He added a high court decision will have limited territorial application while this law is applicable across India.

Due to the amendments, several offences against minors are no longer punishable by law, and as a result, police cannot look into them unless given permission to do so by a magistrate. Some of these offences carried punishments of three years or even up to seven years behind bars. These included buying and selling children, abusing them as workers, and using them for child begging, among other things. The law’s amendments were passed in Parliament last year.

In its plea filed in May, the DCPCR said the amendments have resulted in “denuding the police of powers to investigate and arrest the offenders” and place an “undue, unfair and unjustifiable burden on minor victims to come forward and report the commission of a serious offence.”

A police officer was given the authority to conduct an investigation and make arrests after learning of a cognizable offence under the 2015 Act. Police lack this authority when investigating non-cognizable offences unless it has been given permission.

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