NEW DELHI: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday chaired the first meeting of a Group of Ministers (GoM) to discuss proposed amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act, including empowering district magistrates to function as ‘administrators’ in cases against minors. According to the JJ Act, an ‘administrator’ means any district official not below the rank of a deputy secretary in the state, on whom magisterial powers have been conferred. The government is mulling to replace ‘Deputy Secretary’ with ‘District Magistrate’, hoping this would lead to quick disposal of cases.
“An administrator is part of the preliminary inquiry whose job is to see whether a person alleged to be in conflict with law is a minor or not. The administrator gives his opinion based on the police report. If the administrator finds involvement of a minor in a crime, the case goes to the Juvenile Justice Board, where the judicial magistrate gives a final word on both the age of the juvenile as well as the merit of the case,” an official said.
He said the main purpose of this proposal to empower DMs to work as administrators was to reduce pendency and fast -track disposal of cases before Juvenile Justice Boards. Another senior government functionary explained the ‘rationale’ behind the proposed move, saying every district in the country has a JJB but most districts do not have a deputy secretary-level official whereas each district has a DM. Therefore, the proposal, if accepted, would save a lot of time wasted in sending files from districts to administrators, usually posted in state capitals.
While latest data on pending cases before JJBs in the country is not available, there were as many as 1, 30,572 cases pending as on March 31, 2015 of which Uttar Pradesh alone had some 34,569 cases pending. There is no state-wise break-up of the alarming figure available but the Bihar government in response to an RTI reply had said that there were over 16,000 cases pending.The ministers who attended the GoM meeting included Ravi Shankar Prasad (Law), S Jaishankar (External Affairs), Smriti Irani (WCD), Harsh Vardhan (Health) and Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Food Processing Industries). In January, the apex court had asked the Centre to urgently fill gaps in the JJ Act 2015 to determine the category of crimes that are not heinous but still punishable with 7 year jail term like in the case of heinous crimes like rape and murder.
SC directive to govt
SC had asked the Centre to urgently fill gaps in the JJ Act to determine the category of crimes that are not heinous but still punis-hable with 7-year jail term