Juvenile delinquency is defined as “the habitual committing of criminal acts or offences by a young person, especially one below the age at which ordinary criminal prosecution is possible.”
These acts are committed mostly by teenagers, cumulative in today’s civilization, which is a very concerning matter and cannot be snubbed. The more concerning matter is that generations of youth are believed to be the future of the world. Their behaviour shows how tomorrow’s future will be.
In contemporary scientific thought pervaded with predominant cultural standpoints, childhood and adolescence are perceived as being indisputably different from adulthood, particularly in terms of their biological, psychological, and social aspects. From the outset of human civilization, ever-changing social circumstances have always had a significant impact on the process of a child’s psychological development, which largely depended on specific social settings and the underlying cultural attitude to children and youth.
Main Points of the Juvenile Justice Act
The Juvenile Justice Board
- When a child alleged to be in conflict with law is apprehended by the police, he/she will be placed under the charge of the special juvenile police or the designated child welfare police officer, who shall produce the child before the Juvenile Justice Board.
- An inquiry may satisfy a Board that a child, irrespective of age, has committed a petty offence, or a serious offence, or a child below the age of 16 has committed a heinous offence. In such a case, it may:
- Allow the child to go home after advice or admonition.
- Direct the child to participate in group counselling and similar activities.
- Order the child to perform community service.
- Order the child, or parents of the child, to pay a fine.
- Release the child on probation of good conduct.
- Direct the child to a special home for a period not exceeding three years.
- In case of a heinous offence by a child above the age of 16, the Board may say that there is a need for trial of the child as an adult. No child in conflict with the law shall receive a death or life imprisonment sentence without the possibility of release.
“We see juvenile offenders trapped helplessly in the criminal justice system of India. We at Legistify try to help such children,” said Akshat Singhal, Founder of Legistify.
“This rise in juvenile delinquency is very alarming, and we hope to provide free legal aid to underprivileged families and children!” said Ritesh, Co-Founder of Legistify.
Observation Homes for Juvenile Offenders
The recent escape of 33 juvenile offenders from an observation home in Chennai has raised questions on the efficacy of the juvenile justice system in the country. The National Human Rights Commission has issued notice to the government in this regard, and hopefully the step will ignite a change not only in the conditions of observation homes across the country, but also in our approach towards children accused of being in conflict with law.
Proper Observation Homes and Facilities for Juvenile Offenders
Since observation homes are like transit points, they offer no educational or vocational activities for these juvenile offenders, as one presumes that the kids will stay there for a short while. But the reality is otherwise. Even if it was different, not having any activity, even for a few days, with energetic children is a sure recipe for disaster.
Juvenile offenders have the same set of constitutional guarantees as an adult, such as a fair trial. But very often, adult offenders are able to secure bail faster than a juvenile offender. Merely because the juvenile is not punished, it can in no way take away his/her constitutional guarantees of liberty. The only difference is that, unlike adult offenders, the state must protect, and ultimately rehabilitate, juvenile offenders. But protection cannot become custody.
Also, the statute stresses on privacy as a right for the juvenile offender. But in the garb of privacy, there is very little effort for scrutiny and transparency in the process. The statute focuses on necessary infrastructure with a significant involvement of informal systems, specifically the family, voluntary organizations, and the community, to provide a system separate from the criminal justice system.
For this to become a reality, we must build effective linkages between districts and states, among various government agencies in association with child rights groups, along with effective legal services for the children and their families. Otherwise, juvenile justice will become a poor copy of the criminal justice system, only hardening the children caught in it.
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Here is your Essay on Juvenile Justice System in India !
Available statistics on juvenile delinquency in India reveal that the problem is not as tense as in the western world. “Ibis may be due to variations in living conditions such as greater family affiliation and parental control, stronghold of religious convictions and due regard for moral precepts in Indian society. This is not to suggest that the proportion of juvenile delinquency in India is negligible.
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The impact of western civilization and temptation for luxuries and pompous life has greatly disturbed the modem Indian youth. Consequently, there has been a considerable growth in crimes committed by juveniles. India like any other country, also seeks to tackle the problem of juvenile delinquency on the .basis of three fundamental assumptions:—
(i) Young offenders should not be tried; they should rather be corrected;
(ii) They should not be punished but reformed
(iii) Exclusion of delinquents i.e. children in conflict with law from the ambit of Court and stress on their non-penal treatment through community based social control agencies such a Juvenile Justice Board, Observation Homes, Special Homes etc.
The Indian law contains a more precise and clear-cut definition of juvenile delinquency. It provides that any violation of existing penal law of the country committed by a child under eighteen years, shall be an act in conflict with law for the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Justice Board.
It is significant to note that the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, lays down a separate procedure for dealing with the neglected and uncontrollable juveniles who have been termed as ‘children in need of care and protection’. The former are to be dealt with by the Juvenile Justice Board.
The provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 clearly indicate that unlike USA and England, the courts in India do not have jurisdiction in relation to child in conflict with law. That apart, the term ‘delinquency’ in relation to juveniles has the same meaning as ‘offences’ committed by adults.
Thus, there is no difference between the contents of delinquency and an offence except that an offence committed by an adult person is triable in ordinary court whereas the juvenile who commits a delinquent act is proceeded against in the Juvenile Justice Board through a special procedure.
Besides, certain special provisions also exist in the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 in relation to the young and juvenile offenders which provide for their special treatment and procedure. They are as follows:—
(1) Sections 82 and 83 of the Indian Penal Code contain elaborate provisions regarding the extent of criminal liability of children belonging to different age groups. A child below the age of seven is doli incapex, that is, incapable of committing a crime. Likewise, a child between seven and twelve years of age has only a limited criminal liability. The contention is to justify a lenient treatment to young offenders because they cannot appreciate the nature and consequences of their act due to lack of sufficient maturity and understanding. Under the circumstances, it would be grossly unjust to treat them at par with the adult offenders.
(2) Section 360 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 provides that when any person who is below twenty-one years of age or any woman, is convicted of an offence not being punishable with death or imprisonment for life, and no previous conviction is proved against such person, the court may, having regard to the age, character and antecedents of the offender, and to the circumstances in which the offence was committed, order release of the offender on probation of good conduct for a period not exceeding three years on entering into a bond with or without sureties, instead of sentencing him to any punishment. Such ‘first offenders’ are not to be tried in a criminal court through the ordinary procedure. Instead, they are to be dealt with and corrected through special methods or treatment under the law. The object is to segregate the young offenders from hardened criminals so that they are not exposed to recidivistic tendencies.
(3) Section 27 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 further suggests that a lenient treatment to juveniles has already received statutory recognition in the Indian law. The section provides that if a person below sixteen years of age commits an offence other than the one punishable with death or imprisonment for life, he should be awarded a lenient punishment depending on his previous history, character and circumstances which led him to commit the crime. His sentence can further be commuted for good behaviour during the term of his imprisonment.
With a view to preventing the juvenile offender from stigmatisation and embarrassment, the proceedings instituted against him are neither published nor published. His name, address or identity is not disclosed and general public is excluded from witnessing the trial. The delinquent’s parents may, however, be allowed to attend the trial. The object of these closed-door proceedings is to keep off the delinquent from the rigours of procedural law and make the trial simple and less formal.
The guiding principles relating to the treatment of children and young delinquents are now contained in two Central Acts, namely, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958. The latter Act provides for release of juvenile offenders on probation.
The theme underlying these legislative measures pre-supposes that youngsters are “naughty” by nature and therefore, society’s attitude towards them should be one of tolerence and generosity. That apart, the mental attitude of juvenile delinquent at the time of committing crime certainly differs from that of a confirmed adult criminal. It would therefore, be grossly unjust to punish the two alike.