“Juvenile justice fractures as child ‘falls from height’” goes the headline of The Morung Express after a contentious episode involving a child in Wokha Town in October. Despite varying versions, it was established that laid down procedure were not followed by different stakeholders and juvenile justice was violated.
Most recently, when the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE) rescheduled the board exams of class 8 and 9 after reported theft of question papers, the names of the alleged ‘culprits’ (presumably ‘child’ in the eyes of the law) were prominently highlighted through an advertisement in a local daily. Others, including this paper, have erred at times.
Such routine violations of juvenile justice are appalling and it is imperative for the general public as well as other stakeholders to familiarize with such issues.
The law is unequivocal on this. Specific sections under the ‘Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012’ and the ‘Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015’ deal with the disclosure of identity of ‘child in conflict with the law’. Here a ‘child in conflict with the law’ refers to someone “who is alleged or found to have committed an offence and who has not completed eighteen years of age on the date of commission of such offence.”
The violations might be mostly inadvertent. Therefore, it is pertinent to revisit these sections of the law.
Under Section 74 of the Juvenile Act dealing with the prohibition of the disclosure of identity of children states that: “No report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or audio-visual media or other forms of communication regarding any inquiry or investigation or judicial procedure, shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particular, which may lead to the identification of a child in conflict with law or a child in need of care and protection or a child victim or witness of a crime, involved in such matter, under any other law for the time being in force, nor shall the picture of any such child be published.”
Only for the “reasons to be recorded in writing, the Board or Committee, as the case may be, holding the inquiry may permit such disclosure, if in its opinion such disclosure is in the best interest of the child.”
Further, the Police are also barred from disclosing “any record of the child for the purpose of character certificate or otherwise in cases where the case has been closed or disposed of.”
Again, under the POCSO Act (Section 23 – Procedure for media), no person is allowed to make “any report or present comments on any child from any form of media or studio or photographic facilities without having complete and authentic information, which may have the effect of lowering his (her) reputation or infringing upon his (her) privacy.”
Further “No reports in any media shall disclose, the identity of a child including his name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of identity of the child…”
“…For reasons to be recorded in writing, the Special Court, competent to try the case under the Act, may permit such disclosure, if in its opinion such disclosure is in the interest of the child.”
As per the law, the publisher or owner of the media or studio or photographic facilities shall be jointly and severally liable for the acts and omissions of his (her) employee.
Any people flouting the above provisions are punishable either with imprisonment or fine or both.
The Indian Law also provides for four statutory bodies in the juvenile justice system from the moment a child comes in conflict with law—the special juvenile police unit, the juvenile justice board, the district child protection officers (DCPO) and the child welfare committee (CWC).
The promotions of child and woman’s rights are essential element of the rule of law, conforming to both national as well as international legal framework. It is high time for various stakeholders, including the media, to become aware and be sensitive to these rights.