Background and goals. The children’s rights movement in India is relatively recent and the juvenile justice system is a young one. This article aims to provide an introduction to the juvenile justice system in India and to discuss the challenges present before it and the recent initiatives taken to address those challenges.
Methods. Information was compiled from the following sources: 1) Websites of major agencies of the Government of India, namely the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD), the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB); and 2) The authors’ own experience in this area and their collaboration with the Centre for Child and Law (CCL), National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore.
Results. Many initiatives have been taken by the Government of India which directly or indirectly has and will continue to have an impact on the mental health of children who come in contact with the law. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000 (amended in 2011) is an act of Parliament and is the primary legal framework for juvenile justice in India. Another important initiative is the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), a centrally sponsored scheme aimed at building a protective environment for children in difficult circumstances, as well as other vulnerable children, through a government–civil society partnership. There is a paucity of data and research on the prevalence and types of mental disorders among children in conflict with the law.
Conclusion. Although there are major gaps between policies and actual conditions for juveniles who run afoul of the law. India has made a promising beginning by adopting progressive legislation, especially the Juvenile Justice Act of 2011, and the mental health community can learn from India’s experience and provide this vulnerable, yet difficult, population with opportunities for a brighter future. India has a history of very progressive policies and legislation, regarding juvenile justice, and work continues to address inadequacies and ongoing challenges.