Author: Shefali Chitkara
Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, Delhi
“It’s very important for us to understand that the youth within juvenile justice system are those who haven’t had the right mentors and supporters around them. It is due to the circumstances beyond their control.”
Children are considered to be the supreme assets of a country. They are the future owners of the nation. Good values must be inculcated in them from the very beginning because some people do not hesitate to take the benefit of their immaturity and use them as a tool for committing the crime. Due to such people our future stakeholders are at a huge risk. It is also due to the indifferences that exist in the society that the children are not brought up properly which unfortunately leads to child delinquency. In India, providing every child with every possible protection and care is a huge challenge due to its huge population but if the system has been brought up in such a manner that is respected by everyone then nothing is impossible. The write-up deals with the juvenile justice system, how it has been evolved during the years. It also provides the history of this system and what modifications have been made in the new act by referring to the important cases and provisions of the law. Almost every country has developed a juvenile justice system. India, too, has a justice system to deal with the young offenders.
With the frightful incident of “Nirbhaya Delhi Gang Rape Case” on December 16, 2012 that has shocked the whole country, many issues were raised. One such issue was the involvement of the accused who has not attained the age of 18 years. His involvement in such a heinous crime of rape has forced the Legislation to introduce a new law which is “Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection), 2015. The new act has replaced the existing laws related to juvenile. The remarkable changes that have been made in this act are later discussed in the paper. The term ‘Juvenile’ has been derived from the Latin word Juvenis that means young so, ‘a justice system for the young’. When crimes are committed by children, their cases are heard in juvenile courts. It mainly focuses on the counseling and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. Since the crimes are increasing day-by-day, the worst part is that the share of crimes committed by juveniles to total crimes has increased tremendously. Before going deep into the topic, there is a need of understanding the history of Juvenile Justice System in India, legal definition of Juvenile, difference between Juvenile and Child.
HISTORY OF JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM
A movement for special treatment of juvenile offenders has been started throughout the world around the 18th century. Before this, juvenile offenders were treated the same as other criminal offenders. On November 20, 1989, the General Assembly of the UN adopted a convention on the Rights of Child. It further leads the Indian Legislation to repeal the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 and make a new law. So, it came up with “The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. This act was further repealed by Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 was enacted with more modifications so that the juveniles in conflict of the law in the age group of 16-18 years who are involved in heinous crimes can be tried as adults. Juvenile Justice is one of those steps taken by the nation to attain the constitutional vision of India pertaining to the care and wellbeing of children.
LEGAL DEFINITION OF JUVENILE
According to Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, a Juvenile is a boy who has not completed 16 years of age and a girl who has not completed 18 years of age. When this act was revoked by Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, then the distinction in the age of male and female was done away and it has been fixed at 18 years. And also, under Section 2 (35) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015, “juvenile” means a child below the age of eighteen years.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JUVENILE AND MINOR
Both the above mentioned terms have the same meaning in general sense. However, difference lies in the context of implications in the eyes of law. A minor is a person who is below the age of 18 years and juvenile is a young person who has been accused of a crime as has been defined above. In other words, a minor or a child indicates an innocent person and the juvenile is an immature and young offender. Child has been defined under Section 2 (12) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and juvenile has been defined under Section 2 (35) of the act.
DEFINITION OF DELINQUENCY
According to W. H. Sheldon, delinquency is a behavior that is disappointing beyond reasonable expectations. It is an unwelcomed action or omission on the part of a juvenile which is socially not permitted. It is also defined as a disorder where a child is pretending to act like an adult. According to American Psychological Association, juvenile delinquency is defined as an illegal behaviour by a child which would be considered criminal if committed by an adult.
JUVENILE CRIMES IN INDIA AND THE LAW
Children are the future stakeholders of the nation. There is a need to teach them the lessons of life by adults, and parents must give time to their children. They must talk to them about their issues, teach them to respect the laws and people of the nation. Wrongdoings by juveniles is an unforgiving reality in India. In the recent years, they have been observed to be involved in the most heinous crimes like rape, murder. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the National Capital has registered an 11.5% increase in juvenile crimes in 2017. One report also said that educated juveniles committed more crimes than illiterate ones in that year. According to the Crime in India report, 2018, the number of juvenile crimes committed was around 31,000 and almost 99% of the juveniles apprehended for the crimes were boys. Many specialists believe that present law is not sufficient to tackle the circumstances and we require changes in it so that we could change the direction of the wrong-going juveniles.
CAUSES OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY
Researchers show that there are various reasons for juvenile delinquency. At every stage of life, a person’s behaviour changes, similar is the case with children. They tend to fall in the trap of people very easily. Some of the causes are as follows:
Modern Life Style
Economic condition and Poverty
Instability during Adolescence
Laxity in parental control
Lack of care and protection
Lack of Education
Similarly, there are many other reasons like children are not able to differentiate between right and wrong. This needs to be looked upon by the law makers because there is an urgent need to stop the increasing juvenile crimes.
PRESENT JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN INDIA
The previous Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was replaced by the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 as it contains the ill-equipped legal provisions and showed the malfunctioning of the juvenile system. The cases related to juvenile crimes are also increasing in the recent years and the Delhi Gang Rape Case has further forced the law makers to come up with this new law. The act of 2015 also seeks to tackle the problem of juvenile delinquency.
This system is aimed at promoting, protecting and safeguarding the rights of the children. The act of Juvenile Justice focuses on the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders through various child care institutions. The Juvenile Justice System has been made on the basis of the below mentioned assumptions:
Rather than trying the young offenders at the court, they should be corrected in all possible ways.
Juvenile offenders at such age are in need of and must be given proper care and protection.
They must get a chance to reform except in some heinous crimes.
CLAIM OF JUVENILITY
The Juvenile Justice Board decides the claim of juvenility before the court proceedings. The board consists of the Principal Magistrate and two social workers, one of whom should be a woman. Rule 12 of the Juvenile Justice Rules, 2007 need to be considered by the board while determining the claim of juvenility. The claim can be raised at any stage of proceedings, even after the disposal of the matter under Section 9 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. This was observed in the case of KulaiIbrahim v. State of Coimbatore (AIR 2014 SC 2726).
There are many other cases which cover this concept. In the case of Deoki Nandan Dayma v. State of Uttar Pradesh ((1997) 10 SCC 525), it was held that for determining the age of juvenile, the entry in the register of school mentioning the date of birth of the student is an admissible evidence. Similarly, the Supreme Court in the case of Satbir Singh and others v. State of Haryana (AIR 2005 SC 3549) held the same thing.
Further, in the case of Krishna Bhagwan v. State of Bihar (AIR 1989 Pat 217), the court held that the relevant date for considering the age of juvenile should be the date on which the offence has been committed. But this was later overruled by the Supreme Court in Arnit Das v. State of Bihar (AIR 2000 SC 748). It was held that the date on which the accused is brought before the competent authority should be considered for deciding the claim of juvenility. In the present Juvenile Justice System, the determination of age is a paramount important concept to decide whether the offender falls under the purview of Juvenile Justice Act. It itself clarifies that no juvenile offender who comes under the definition of ‘child in conflict with law’ under Section 2 (13) of the act shall be tried as an adult and he/she shall be sent to a child care centre or rehabilitation centre.
SUGGESTIONS AND CONCLUSION
The crimes are increasing day-by-day especially juvenile crimes which has become a very concerning and debatable issue and need to be looked upon by the nation. The main aim of the system is the reformation of the juvenile as much as possible by sending them to rehabilitation centres but with these minor punishments, there is no change in the rate of crimes till now. There is an urgent need to penalize the offenders in such a way that it would act as a deterrent for other people and stop them from doing such crimes. Rape is rape, one can’t go away taking the plea of age factor or mental illness. The existing law is not creating any deterrent effect on the offenders rather, this reformative approach is giving an undue advantage to such offenders. Reformation must be the main aim but not always. Moreover, there must be effective linkages between districts and states, government agencies as well as the child rights group with effective legal services for the children all over the world. Small steps like a parent's good relation with their children or they must inculcate good habits and moral values from the very early age in their children or by knowing the company of their children will help a lot in preventing all such crimes. Early counselling for those with criminal tendency is required to ensure that they do not end up as offenders. However, the new bill of 2015 is forward looking as well as comprehensive but there is a need for more such amendments for the greater interest of the people at large. But above all this, education will always be the mother of all tools to eliminate such crimes.