Practice Relating to Rule 136. Recruitment of Child Soldiers
In 2005, upon ratification of the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, India made the following declaration:
Pursuant to article 3 (2) of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, the Government of the Republic of India declare that:
(i) The minimum age for recruitment of prospective recruits into Armed Forces of India (Army, Air Force and Navy) is 16 years. After enrollment and requisite training period, the attested Armed Forces personnel is sent to the operational area only after he attains 18 years of age;
(ii) The recruitment into the Armed Forces of India is purely voluntary and conducted through open rally system/open competitive examinations. There is no forced or coerced recruitment into the Armed Forces.
In 2011, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, India stated:
5. The minimum age for recruitment of prospective officers into the Armed Forces of India (Army, Air Force and Navy) is 16 and half years. However, after enrolment, the recruits undergo training. They are sent to the operational areas only after attaining 18 years of age. The minimum age for recruitment to Central Paramilitary Forces (CPF) is 18 years. Both the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Defence have stated that no soldier below 18 years of age is deployed. …
6. There is no forced and coerced recruitment into the Armed Forces of India. Hence, article 2 of the Optional Protocol does not apply to India.
7. Recruitment to the Armed Forces in India is purely voluntary and a person below 18 years of age cannot be inducted directly into the Armed Forces and hence, does not take direct part in hostilities. Recruitment of jawans in the Army is carried out through open recruitment rallies and those in the age group of 18–42 years are eligible to apply.
17. India does not face either international or non-international armed conflict situations. However, it had created a protection mandate for children much before ratifying the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Article 21 of the Constitution says that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. Article 39(e) directs the State to ensure that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, and that they are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment. Article 47 imposes on the State the primary responsibility of ensuring that all the needs of children are met and that their basic rights are fully protected.
18. Even though India does not face armed conflict, there are legislative provisions that prevent involvement of children in armed conflict and provide care and protection to children affected by armed conflict.
19. A child affected by armed conflict has been already defined by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (JJ Act), 2000, as a child in need of care and protection. Therefore, all the measures available under this Act are available for such children, which have a standard component of minimum standards to be adhered to. The Act was amended in 2006, making it more responsive to the emerging needs of juvenile justice.
20. The Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), launched by the MWCD [Ministry of Women and Child Development] in 2009, is a centrally-sponsored scheme that provides a safe and secure environment for overall development of children in need of care and protection, including children in difficult circumstances, such as children affected by, or involved in armed conflict. The objective of the Scheme is to contribute to the improvement in the well-being of children in difficult circumstances, and to the reduction of vulnerabilities to situations and actions that lead to abuse, neglect, exploitation, abandonment and separation of children. These will be achieved by:
(a) Improved access to, and quality of, child protection services;
[(b)] Increased public awareness about the reality of child rights, situation and protection in India;
[(c)] Clearly articulated responsibilities and enforced accountability for child protection;
[(d)] Established and functioning structures at all Government levels for delivery of statutory and support services to children in difficult circumstances;
[(e)] Introduction of operational-evidence-based monitoring and evaluation.
[footnotes in original omitted]