If we are ever to have real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children.
– Mohandas K. Gandhi
As per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, (UNCRC), a child is every human being who is below the age of 18 unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.
Children are the future citizens of any country who play a defining role in its development. At the same time, children are also considered to be vulnerable both physically as well as psychologically due to which they may fall prey or victim to various illegal activities.Which is why, it becomes an integral responsibility of the State to protect their rights for their safe development and growth. In regards to the sensitivity of the issue, the Government of India under the Constitution has provided several safeguards to children with respect to their education, prohibition of child labour and against their exploitation. Apart from that, it has enacted several legislations over a period for the welfare and security of minors.
Provisions that Safeguard the Rights of Children
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
In 2007, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 came into force which forbids the solemnization of child marriages. The act defines the child marriage as marriage in which the boy or girl is underage i.e either the girl is less than18 years and the boy is under 21 years of age. The offence of participating or even attending a child marriage is cognizable and non-bailable. The punishment includes rigorous imprisonment extending to two years and shall also be liable for a fine, extending up to 1 lakh rupees.
- Juvenile Justice Act, 2015
The Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children), 2015 was passed in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and repealed the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. The Act provides a special approach with respect to the protection, treatment, development, and social reintegration of the children alleged and found to be in conflict with the law. This includes adopting a child-friendly approach to adjudicating and disposal of related matters.
- The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
The Child Labour (Prohibition And Regulation) Act, 1986 prohibits the engagement of children in any kind of employment with hazardous working conditions. It promotes the regulation of their working provisions and sets limitations on their work period and hours. It lays down enhanced penalties for employment of children in violation of the provisions of this Act.
- The Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision And Control) Act, 1960
The Orphanages And Other Charitable Homes (Supervision And Control) Act, 1960 provides for the supervision and control of orphanages and homes for women and children who are neglected. The Act provides for regulation, eligibility and management of such orphanages.
- The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890
The Guardian And Wards Act, 1890 is applicable to all children, irrespective of religion and is concerned with the qualification, appointment and removal of guardians of children by the courts. With respect to divorce matters, the Act empowers the court to make orders as to guardianship to ensure the protection and care of the child.
- Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956
This Act is applicable to any person who is a Hindu by religion and to those who are Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion. The Act was enacted with the objective of protection of the minor as well as his property by proper appointment of a guardian by Court in absence of a natural guardian.
- The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956
The Hindu Adoption And Maintenance Act, 1956 deals with the child adoption provisions and all legalities concerned with it for a person belonging to the Hindu religion. It also concerned the Hindu law of maintenance to parents, wives, and children
- The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958
Observing the chance for the transformation of young offenders, the Probation Of Offenders Act, 1958 provides for the release of offenders below twenty-one years of age, on probation or after due admonition. This Act aims to prevent the conversion of young offenders to obstinate criminals
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
The Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 provides for the protection of children against the commission of offences of sexual assault and harassment, pornography. It provides for rigorous punishments and fines to those convicted of such crimes against children as it is heinous and threatening in nature. It also establishes Special Courts for the trial of such offences which includes conducting trials in-camera for safeguarding the identity of the child.
Considering the age and vulnerability, age, minors require special attention and care. This is where the law and judiciary can play a significant role in their holistic development and the gradual upliftment of the nation because every young citizen of the country deserves a comprehensive, adaptive, and inclusive legal framework for the protection of their rights and their welfare.