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Juvenile Delinquency – A Rising Concern

Juvenile Delinquency

In the previous couple of decades, the rate of crime committed by children under the age of 16 years has increased. The explanation of the accelerating rate of Juvenile Delinquency is the upbringing environment of the child, economic conditions, lack of education, and therefore the parental care. These are a number of essential reasons and the most disappointing part is that children (especially under the age bracket of 5 to 7 years) nowadays are used as a tool for committing the crime as at that stage, their mind is extremely innocent and might easily be manipulated.

The frightful incident of the Nirbhaya Delhi Gang Rape Case on December 16, 2012, shocked the entire nation and many debates were started among the legal fraternity and socialists. The reason for the talk was the involvement of an accused person who was just six months short to achieve the age of 18 years. The involvement of the accused in such a heinous crime of rape forced the Indian Legislation to introduce a brand new law and thus, the Indian Parliament came up with a brand new law which is understood as the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015.

The introduction of this Act has replaced the prevailing juvenile laws and has introduced some remarkable changes; one amongst the remarkable changes is that a juvenile under the group of 16 to 18 years should be tried as an adult.

Understanding Juvenile Delinquency

Generally, a child means an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years and isn’t mature enough to know that what’s right and what’s wrong. In the present era, the penal laws of most countries, including the Indian Penal Code, have adopted the principle of ‘doli incapax’ which implies incapability of forming the intent to commit a crime or tort, especially by reason of age. The penal laws also state that only a child between the age of seven to 12 years will be convicted, only if, the act that they committed may be a heinous crime and that they have the knowledge and have attained the sufficient knowledge to grasp the results of their actions.

According to sub-section 12 of Section 2 of the Juvenile (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 a child means an individual who has not completed eighteen years of age. The Act classifies the term child into two categories.

  • Child in conflict with the law, and
  • Child in need of care and protection.

The child who has committed an offense and he or she is under the age of 18 years on the date of commission of the offense is essentially called a child in conflict with the law. The second sub–category is a child in need of care and protection means a toddler as defined under Section 14 of the Act.

Section 2(e) of the Indecency with Children Act, 1960 stated that a child means a boy who has not attained the age of sixteen years or a lady who has not attained the age of eighteen years.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Child, 1989 defines that child means somebody being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the domestic law applicable to the child, the majority is attained earlier.

Difference between a Juvenile and a Child

A person under the age of full legal obligation and responsibility may be a minor or someone who is below the age of eighteen years is minor. A child being accused of a criminal offense isn’t tried as an adult and is sent to Child Care Centre whereas a juvenile may be a person between the age bracket of sixteen and eighteen years. A youth who is been accused of a crime may be a juvenile offender and is tried as an adult in court proceedings.

In a general sense, both the terms have the same meaning but however, the difference lies in the context of implications within the eyes of the law. Minor implies young and teenage persons whereas juvenile either indicates an immature person or young offenders.

History Of Juvenile Justice System In India

In the present era, a movement for the special treatment of juvenile offenders has started throughout the planet including many developed countries like the U.K. and the U.S.A. This movement started around the 18th century. Before this, juvenile offenders were treated the same as other criminal offenders. And for the identical reason, the General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted a Convention on the Rights of Child on 20th November 1989. This Convention seeks to guard the simplest interest of juvenile offenders. The Convention states that to guard the social – reintegration of juveniles, there shall be no litigation and court trials against them. The Convention led the Indian Legislature to repeal the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, and to create a replacement law. Thus, the Indian Legislature came up with a brand new Act which was called The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 which repealed the earlier Children Act, 1960, aimed towards giving effect to the rules contained within the Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice adopted by the UN countries in November 1985. The above-mentioned Act consisted of 63 Sections, 7 Chapters, and is extended to the whole of India except to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The first purpose of the Act was to produce care and protection, treatment, development, and rehabilitation of the neglected offender. The objectives of the Act were:-

  • The act basically laid down a uniform framework for juvenile justice in the country in such a way that it protects the proper interest of juveniles.
  • It talks about the machinery and infrastructure for the care, protection treatment, development, and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.
  • It commenced the essential provisions for the correct and fair administration of criminal justice just in case of heinous crime done by juvenile offenders.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2000

The Act was enacted in the year 2000 with an aim and intent to produce protection for children. The Act was amended twice – first in the year 2006 and later in the year 2011. The amendment was made to deal with the gap and loopholes within the implementation.

Further, the increasing number of cases of juvenile delinquency in recent years and the frightful incident of the Delhi Gang Rape Case have forced lawmakers to come back up with the law. The foremost drawback of the Act was that it contains ill-equipped legal provisions and a malfunctioning juvenile system. The Act was replaced soon by The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015.

Present Juvenile Justice System In India

Like the other countries, India had also made legal provisions that especially and specifically deal with the rights and protection of juvenile offenders and which seeks to tackle the matter of juvenile delinquency. The Juvenile Justice System in India is formed on the premise of three main assumptions:-

  • Young offenders mustn’t be tried in courts rather they ought to be corrected in the simplest possible ways;
  • They ought to not be punished by the courts but they must get an opportunity to reform;
  • Trial for a child in conflict with law should be supported by non-penal treatment through the communities based upon the group action agencies for e.g. Observation Homes and Special Homes.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

The Act aims to consolidate the laws regarding children alleged and located to be in conflict with law and youngsters in need of care and protection by catering and considering their basic needs through proper care & protection, development, treatment, social- integration, by adopting a child-friendly approach within the adjudication and disposal of matters in the best interest of children. The Act also focuses on the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders through various child care houses and institutions. 

Claim of Juvenility

The very first and most debatable question among the legal fraternity and socialists is that the ‘claim of juvenility‘. The claim of juvenility is to be decided by the Juvenile Justice Board. The Board needs to decide the claim of juvenility before the court proceedings but the claim of juvenility will be raised before the court at any stage of proceedings and even after the disposal of the matter by the Board. The Board has to think about Rule 12 of the Juvenile Justice Rules, 2007 so as to see the claim of juvenility. In the case of  Kulai Ibrahim v. the State of Coimbatore, it had been observed by the Court that the accused has the right to lift the question of juvenility at any point of your time during the trial or perhaps after the disposal of the case under the Section 9 of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

In the case of Deoki Nandan Dayma v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Court held that entry within the register of faculty mentioning the date of birth of student is admissible evidence in determining the age of the juvenile or to indicate that whether the accused is juvenile or child.

In the case of  Satbir Singh & Others v. the State of Haryana, Supreme Court again reiterated that for the aim of determining whether the accused is juvenile or not, the date of birth which is recorded within the school records shall be taken into consideration by Juvenile Justice Board.

In the case of Krishna Bhagwan v. State of Bihar the Court stated that for the aim of trial under Juvenile Justice Board, the relevant date for considering the age of juvenile should be the one on which the offense has been committed.

But later in the case of Arnit Das v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court overruled its previous decision and held that date to make your mind up in claim of juvenility should be the date on which the accused is brought before the competent authority.

Juvenile Justice Board

There shall be a constitution of the Board for the aim of inquiry and hearing within the matters of juveniles in conflict with the law. The Board shall consist of Principal Magistrate and two social workers, among whom one should be a woman. The Act provides that under no circumstances the Board can regulate and operate from regular court premises. The decision taken by the Principal Magistrate shall be final.

Special Procedure of Juvenile Justice Board- The Act has provided the procedure against the juvenile offender. Following are the special procedures–

  • The proceedings cannot be initiated on a complaint registered by the police or citizen.
  • The hearing must be informal and may be strictly confidential.
  • The offenders should be kept under Observation Home after detention.
  • The trial of a juvenile in conflict with the law shall be conducted by a lady Magistrate.
  • A juvenile in conflict with law is also produced before a private member of the Board when the Board isn’t sitting.

Conclusion

There is a famous quote by John Malloy that, ‘the hurt, hurt and the healed, heal.’ The Juvenile Justice System should be based on this axiom. It should not hurt but heal the child. The child who has committed a crime should be treated with care because it is at an early stage and easily reformable under careful watch. A child’s mind is really reactive and influenceable and so must be kept away from the thoughts of crime or criminality and that should be enough to keep them away from crimes.

Reformative theory of punishment shall be applied in cases of juvenile delinquency and they must be given another chance to change their depraved ways and turn back to being on the path of being a law-abiding citizen. Public awareness campaigns must be run through various NGOs through parents, guardians, schools, and other institutions relating to children. A child reformed will be a generation saved and a child reformed will be many criminal incidents avoided.


Editor’s Note
The juvenile delinquency rate has been rapidly increasing all over the world, and particularly in India. In this article, the author has provided the definition of child and juvenile as well as the difference between both terms. Further, the author has provided the historical background of the juvenile justice system in India and has also thrown light upon the present juvenile justice system prevailing in India.

Lastly, the author has also briefly discussed provisions regarding the establishment of the Juvenile Justice Board and the special procedures that are required to be followed by the same. The author has concluded by saying that the reformative theory of punishment should be applied in cases of juvenile delinquency, as that would consequently result in lesser crime rates amongst juveniles.

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