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Juvenile Delinquency in India

Context:

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to apprise it on whether observations homes, where minors in conflict with law kept, and Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) are equipped with video-conferencing facility

Who is a Juvenile?

  • A juvenile can be defined as a child who has not attained a certain age at which he can be held liable for his criminal acts like an adult person under the law of the country.
  • The term ‘juvenile in conflict with the law’ refers any person below the age of 18 who has come in contact with the justice system as a result of committing a crime or being suspected of committing a crime.

Juvenile Delinquency

  • Juvenile delinquency refers to the antisocial or criminal activity of the child which violates the law

Statistics:

  • As per data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau, the incidents of juvenile crime have constantly increased between 2010-2014
  • There has been 7.2% rise in juvenile crimes between 2015-16. Maximum number of cases under crime against children were reported in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh

  • Another, alarming fact is that, more than 50% of all crimes committed by juveniles were against women and such crimes rose 92% all-India between 2012 and 2014

Causes of Juvenile Delinquency:

Juvenile delinquency is fostered by a wide range of factors which include:

  1. Poverty: Poverty is one of the major reasons for juvenile delinquency. Juveniles indulge themselves in delinquent acts in order to meet and satisfy the primary wants of their life.
  2. Family: It has been widely accepted that families of delinquents are characterized by discords, desertions and other problems.Such families have been pointed out as one of the main causes of delinquency.
  3. Neighbourhood:The immediate environments of a child also affect the trend he will adopt in connection with his personality. Juvenile delinquents largely belong to areas of poor living conditions.
  4. Factors related to Mental Health: various mental health factors contribute to juvenile delinquency. For example: Conduct disorder.
  5. Virtual world:Constant exposure to aggression – verbal and physical – on television news, videos and games also contributes to increasing juvenile delinquency.
  6. Substance Abuse: there is a strong relationship between substance abuse and juvenile delinquency.Substance abuse is associated with both violent and income-generating crimes by youth.
  7. Bad Peer Group: Juvenile delinquency is often caused or worsened by peer pressure

International Instruments and Conventions dealing with Juvenile Justice

  1. UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules)
  2. UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (Riyadh Guidelines)
  3. UN Rules for the Protection of Juvenile Deprived of their Liberty (Havana Conventions)
  4. Guidelines for the Action on Children in Criminal Juvenile System (Vienna Guidelines)

Juvenile Justice System in India

Apprentices Act of 1850:

  • The Act provides for the binding of children, both boys and girls, between the ages of 10 to 18 as apprentices. It also dealt with children who committed petty offences

Provision in the Criminal Procedure Code:

  • Under Section 399 of the Indian Criminal Procedure Code (ICPC) convicted young offender below the age of 15 could be sent to Reformatory Schools established by the State Government.
  • Section 562 of the C.P.C. also permitted discharge of certain convicted offenders on probation. It also permitted their release with advice.
  • Under Section 82 of the Indian Penal Code childrenunder seven cannot be held responsible for their criminal acts.
  • Section 83 of the Code relaxes this age up to 12 under some conditions.

Juvenile Justice Act, 1986:

India was the first country to grow its system in the light of the principle enunciated in the United Nation Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of the Juvenile Justice

The main objectives were:

  • To provide a specialized approach towards the prevention and control of juvenile delinquency
  • To come up with the machinery and infrastructure for Juvenile Justice operations
  • To establish the norms and standards for the administration of Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000

The main features of this Act are:

  • The Title of the Act stresses on the need for care and protection to both categories of children
  • Uniform age for both boys and girls – any child who has not completed the age of 18 fall within the jurisdiction of the Act
  • Separation of child in need of care and protection and child in conflict with law
  • Constitution of Child Welfare Committees to deal with children in need of care and protection and Juvenile Justice Boards to handle children in conflict with law
  • The category of children in need of care and protection has been expanded to include victims of armed conflict, natural calamity, civil commotion, child who is found vulnerable and likely to be inducted into drug abuse
  • More legal protection assured for the child in conflict with law – detention to be resorted to as the last option, disqualification of past records and privacy maintained
  • The law outline four options of restoration for children in children’s homes and special homes which include adoption, foster care, sponsorship and after care

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2006

  • The JJ Act 2000 was subsequently amended and hereafter referred to as the Principal Act
  • This Act forms the legal system and framework for the care, protection, treatment and rehabilitation of children of both categories
    The Objective of the Act:
  1. To Lay Down A Legal Structure For The Juvenile Justice System In The Country
  2. To Provide A Special Approach To The Protection And Treatment Of Juveniles
  3. To outline the machinery and infrastructure required for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of juveniles
  4. To establish norms and standards for administration of juvenile justice
  5. To establish linkages and co-ordination between the formal system of juvenile justice and voluntary efforts in the welfare of juveniles
  6. To constitute special offences in relation to juveniles and provide punishment.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

It was enacted to replace the existing Juvenile Delinquency law, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 so that juveniles in conflict with law in the age group of 16-18 years, involved in heinous offences can be trialled as adults.

Major Provisions of the Act:

  • It empowers the Juvenile Justice Board to decide if a juvenile criminal in the age group of 16–18 should tried as an adult or not.

  • The Act had tried to make the adoption process of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children more streamlined while adopting some of the concepts from The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption.
  • The act had introduced foster care in India under section 44. As per this, the families would sign up and the abandoned, orphaned children or those in conflict with the law would be sent to them.Such families will be monitored and shall receive financial aid from the state.
  • The law had also made provision that while adopting child, priority is given to disabled children and physically and financially incapable children.
  • The parents who are giving up their child for adoption get 3 months to reconsider their decision {It was earlier 1 month}.
  • The law mandated that any person giving alcohol or drugs to child would be punished with 7 years imprison or Rs. 1 Lakh fine or both. A person selling a child would be imprisoned for five years or Rs. 1 lakh fine or both.

 

 

The Debate over reducing age of Juvenile Delinquency

Arguments in favour:

  • There has been a steep rise in serious crimes involving youth of 16-18 years of age and the age factor had been used as an escape from the criminal prosecution.
  • It has been found that the juveniles of 16-18 age groups are involved in serious crimes and they are doing such criminal acts with full knowledge and maturity.
  • Thus, while trialling juveniles, juvenility should be decided on the basis of state of mind and not the state of body solely.
  • Also, to have a deterrent effect it was necessary to amend the existing law.

Arguments in opposition:

  • The critics are of the view that the root of the problem needs to be addressed instead of punishment. It is not only the responsibility of the child that he/she has committed such heinous crimes but also the responsibility of the society and the government which has failed to provide healthy childhood to the child and let them drift towards criminal activities.
  • Before punishing, it should also be taken into consideration whether there are no possibilities that the child would be reformed, and whether there are chances that the child comes out as a more toughened criminal after spending years in adult jails.

Issues and Challenges with Juvenile Justice in India

  1. Term of sentence:There is no logical or scientific reason which shows that total and complete rehabilitation can be achieved by a child in conflict with the law within a maximum period of three years.
  2. Post completion of term and aftercare: Absolute lack of implementation of the provisions of the JJ Act after a juvenile completes his sentence is a major concern. India’s massive population makes it impossible to track and ensure that a juvenile once released continues with his therapy or even reports regularly to his parole officer.
  3. Juveniles in Adult jails:National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a number of probable juveniles are found in adult jails. Further, the police subvert the guidelines of JJ Act and lodge juveniles into adult jails.
  4. Issues with juvenile homes:
  • Lack of trained staff and financial corruption is a major concern in juvenile homes across India
  • In major of the homes, there is complete lack of vocational training, counselling and individual care plans
  • A 2013 report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), “India’s Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes” stated that inmates are subjected to sexual assault and exploitation, torture and ill-treatment, apart from being forced to live in inhuman conditions

Way Forward:

  1. Child guidance clinics should be established in order to give appropriate treatment to the disturbed and mal-adjusted children.
  2. Families should be educated to realize the importance of giving proper attention to the needs of their young children. Investments in strengthening parenting skills and support can go can serve as preventive measures.
  3. Proper assistance to under-privileged children should be given to build in them good character and law-abiding attitude.
  4. Social environment -slum areas, busy market places, gambling centres, etc., should be improved
  5. The general economic standards of the people must be increased to prevent children from becoming- delinquent due to economic exigencies
  6. Measures should be taken to improve conditions of juvenile homes, correctional homes through regular inspection, adequate funds and imparting training to staff.
  7. The aftercare system should be strengthened to ensure that a juvenile once released continues with his therapy and is effectively rehabilitated in the society.
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