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Juvenile Delinquency: Understanding Causes, Consequences and Solutions

"A brave, frank, clean:hearted, courageous, and aspiring youth is the only foundation on which the future nation can be built.": Swami Vivekananda

Juvenile delinquency, also known as juvenile offending, is the act of participating in unlawful behavior as a minor or individual younger than the statutory age of majority. These acts would otherwise be considered crimes if the individuals committing them were older.

The youth represents the future of the country. Their constant desire to learn new things and modern outlook towards science and technology will lead the country forward in new innovations and technological advancements. Young people are innocent brains, they can be shaped into effective leaders to serve the interests of the country. Hence, India gave much importance to the proper education of children in recent times. But the increasing delinquent behavior among the children may cause difficulty in this process.

According to the reports of the National Crime Report Bureau (NCRB), 31,170 cases were reported against juveniles in 2021, a 4.7% rise from 29,768 cases reported in 2020, and 76% of these crimes were committed by juveniles between the age group of 16:18. The rapidly increasing juvenile delinquency cases have become a huge concern for the country. The following article provides comprehensive information about the issue of juvenile delinquency, various types, causes, consequences, relevant statutes and preventive measures taken by the government in regard to the problem. O

Origins Of The Study Of Juvenile Delinquency

What to do with wayward juveniles has long been a concern of American society. Before the end of the eighteenth century, the family was believed to be the source of cause of deviancy, and therefore, the idea emerged that perhaps the well:adjusted family could provide the model for a correctional institution for children. The house of refuge, the first juvenile institution, reflected the family model wholeheartedly; it was designed to bring the order, discipline, and care of the family into institutional life. The institution was to become the home, the peers, the siblings, the staff, and the parents (Rothman 1971).

Juveniles Placed In Institutions

The New York House of Refuge, which opened on January 1, 1825, with six girls and three boys, is generally acknowledged as the first house of refuge. Over the next decade, Bangor, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Mobile, Philadelphia, and Richmond followed suit in establishing houses of refuge. Twenty:three schools were chartered in the 1830s and another 30 in the 1840s. Some houses of refuge were established by private agencies, some by state governments or legislatures, and some jointly by public authorities and private organizations (Rothman 1971).

One of the changes in juvenile institutions throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century was the development of the cottage system. Eventually called "training schools" or "industrial schools," these institutions would house smaller groups of youths in separate buildings, usually no more than 20�40 youths per cottage. House parents, typically a man and his wife, constituted the staff in these cottages. Early cottages were log cabins; later cottages were constructed from brick or stone.

Barbara M. Brenzel's (1983) study of the State Industrial School for Girls in Lancaster, Massachusetts, the first state reform school for girls in the United States, revealed the growing disillusionment in the mid: to late nineteenth century regarding training schools. Intended as a model reform effort, Lancaster was the first "family style" institution in the United States and embodied new theories about the reformation of youths. However, an "examination of a reform institution during the second half of the nineteenth century reveals the evolution from reformist visions and optimistic goals at mid:century to pessimism and 'scientific' determinism at the century's close" (p. 1). Brenzel added that "the mid:century ideal of rehabilitative care changed to the principle of rigid training and custodial care by the 1880s and remained so into the early twentieth century" (pp. 4�5).

Creation Of The Juvenile Court

During the final decades of the nineteenth century, the Progressive Reformers viewed childhood as a period of dependency and exclusion from the adult world. To institutionalize childhood, they enacted a number of "child saving" laws, including child labor and compulsory school attendance laws. The juvenile court was viewed as another means to achieve unparalleled age segregation of children (Feld 1999). The following are a number of contextual factors that influenced the creation of this court.

Legal Context
The juvenile court was founded in Cook County (Chicago), Illinois, in 1899, when the Illinois legislature passed the Juvenile Court Act, and later that year was established in Denver, Colorado. The parens patriae doctrine provided a legal catalyst for the creation of the juvenile court, furnishing a rationale for use of informal procedures for dealing with juveniles and for expanding state power over the lives of children.

Political Context
In the Child Savers, Anthony Platt (1977) developed the political context of the origin of the juvenile court. He stated that the juvenile court was established in Chicago and later elsewhere because it satisfied several middleclass interest groups. He saw the juvenile court as an expression of middle:class values and of the philosophy of conservative political groups. In denying that the juvenile court was revolutionary, Platt charged that

the child:saving movement was not so much a break with the past as an affirmation of faith in traditional institutions. . . . What seemingly began as a movement to humanize the lives of adolescents soon developed into a program of moral absolutism through which youths were to be saved from movies, pornography, cigarettes, alcohol, and anything else which might possibly rob them of their innocence. (Pp. 98�99)

Economic Context
Platt (1977) argued that the behaviors that the child savers selected to be penalized�such as roaming the streets, drinking, fighting, engaging in sex, frequenting dance halls, and staying out late at night-were found primarily among lower class children. Accordingly, juvenile justice from it inception, he contended, reflected class favoritism that resulted in the frequent processing of poor children through the system while middle: and upper class children were more likely to be excused.

Socio-Cultural Context
The social conditions that were present during the final decades of the nineteenth century were the catalysts that led to the founding of the juvenile court. One social condition was that citizens became increasingly incensed by the treatment of children, especially the policy of jailing children with adults. Another social condition was that the higher status given middle class women made them interested in exerting their newfound influence to improve the lives of children (Faust and Brantingham 1974).

Influence Of Positivism
These pressures for social change took place in the midst of a wave of optimism that swept through the United States during the Progressive Era, the period from 1899 to 1920. The emerging social sciences assured reformers that their problems with delinquents could be solved through positivism. According to positivism, youths were not responsible for their behavior and required treatment rather than punishment.

The concept of the juvenile court spread rapidly across the United States; by 1928, only two states did not have a juvenile court statute. In Cook County, the amendments that followed the original act brought the neglected, the dependent, and the delinquent together under one roof. The "delinquent" category comprised both status offenders and actual violators of criminal law.

What is juvenile delinquency
Juvenile delinquency refers to the involvement of minors below the age of 18 in illegal activities that can hamper the proper functioning of law and order in a country. A juvenile is an individual who has not attained the age of majority. The statutory age of majority is different in every nation. In India, the age of majority is eighteen.

A person is said to be a delinquent when he is not in accordance with societal norms and values. A juvenile delinquent is treated differently from an adult criminal. When a juvenile engages in any anti:social activities, it is presumed that he lacks the mental maturity to take proper decisions but this is not the case with an adult. An adult is fully aware of his actions and the consequences of them. Therefore, emphasis is laid on rehabilitation of juveniles rather than punishment.

Vandalism, theft of items from any store and initiating or involving in a fight that causes injury to the public are some of the common examples of juvenile delinquency.

Types of juvenile delinquency
Howard Becker broadly classified juvenile delinquency into four types, i.e., individual, group:supported, organised and situational, based on the way the delinquent behaviour is carried out and the underlying social context.

Individual delinquency
Individual delinquency is used to describe the behaviour of a child who engages in criminal activities on their own accord without any assistance from others. Psychiatrists have made major contributions towards the study of individual delinquency. According to them, individual delinquency arises from psychological problems.

According to Doctor Healy, the primary cause for the display of such behaviour is the feeblemindedness of the delinquent. The intellectual imparity of a child makes him unable to conform to moral norms set by society, which forces the child to adopt criminal behaviour.

Children adopt their behavioural patterns by visualising their immediate environment, making the family a significant factor in determining the child's behaviour. Family environment, lifestyle, and relationship dynamics influence the child's mental and intellectual development. A child risks developing an anti:social attitude if parents fail to provide the expected love, compassion, and support. Poverty, lack of education, drug usage, and the criminal background of the child's family are the main forces that raise violent and anti:social behaviour among children.

Heredity is also one of the factors leading to delinquent behaviour in teenagers. Children inherit negative behavioural traits from their ancestors. However, a change in the environment of the child will reduce the development of those criminal traits.

In the Barun Chandra Thakur v. Master Bholu (2022) case, a 16:year:old killed a 7:year:old boy by slitting his throat in the toilet of Ryan International School. The case was transferred to the Juvenile Justice Board from the Central Bureau of Investigation in view of the age of the accused. According to the social investigation report of the accused, he was aggressive, short:tempered, less stable, and often consumed alcohol. The board, after conducting the preliminary assessment, was of the opinion that the accused has the mental capacity to commit an offence and can be tried as an adult. However, many appeals were filed against the order, and the Supreme Court held that the power to make a preliminary assessment lies with the Children's Court and Juvenile Justice Board, and the Court cannot delve into this matter.

Group supported delinquency
Group supported delinquency refers to the behaviour of a child who engages in anti social activities in companionship with others. Delinquents develop this behaviour under the influence of the culture prevailing in their immediate neighbourhood and social groups outside the family. According to the reports of the United Nations, two third of the total cases of juvenile delinquency are committed by teenagers who group themselves into gang  like organisations.

Frederick Thrasher, in his work "Gang's Theory", discusses group supported delinquency. Each group has a unique behavioural pattern distinct from other groups, and the members incorporate it into their personalities. During this process, the groups generate animosity towards each other and disseminate criminal techniques to safeguard and promote their interests.

Peer associations are formed among same:aged people. Teenagers devote more time to peer groups than their families. Adolescents are prone to criminal tendencies because they lack adult mental and intellectual maturity at that age.

An individual is willing to take part in any immoral or unethical act that is against the norms of society to get accepted by the group. Parents fail to exercise their control as the child begins to consider the opinions of peers more highly than those of their parents.

Organised delinquency
Organised delinquency is committed by a group of young people formally organised to engage in criminal activities. These organizations have a hierarchical structure and are guided by the established values and norms of the group. Albert Cohen was the first person to mention organized delinquency. In the book "Delinquent Boys: Culture of the Gang", Albert Cohen developed the theory of subculture. According to Cohen, the delinquent subculture is the primary reason for juveniles' involvement in crime.

Subcultures emerge as the result of existing socioeconomic disparities in society. The working:class individual who wants to achieve success and pursue their goals is constantly confronted with middle:class demands and expectations; they soon realise that the rigid social structure and low social rank prevent them from reaching their goals. Inequalities in society compel the individual to reject the existing societal norms and values and join a subgroup to achieve his goals.

Cloward and Ohlin, in their book "Delinquency and Opportunity" pointed out that youngsters who fail to adjust to their inability to achieve success through legitimate means adopt the illegitimate procedure. Juveniles blame the societal order for their failure rather than their inability. A group of individuals who have faced similar experiences and have a typical attitude of hatred towards the existing system will form a deviant subculture. These delinquent subcultures emerged in America in the 1950s. Drug trafficking among children is a prime example of organised delinquency in India. Juveniles are hired by these organised groups to deliver drugs and substances, and they are often paid in drugs.

Situational delinquency
In the types mentioned above of delinquencies, the causes for the commission of the crime by juveniles are deep:rooted. They are driven by psychological, social, or cultural factors. But situational delinquency is not deep:rooted; rather, the cause and means of control are relatively simple.

An individual who indulges in anti:social activities because of the limited impulse control or pressure caused by family and societal restraints. In comparison with other types of delinquency, situational delinquency is considerably easier to control.

David Matza referred to Situational Delinquency in his book "Delinquency and Drift". According to Matza, every person has criminal tendencies that are suppressed in accordance with societal norms. A juvenile is caught between the delinquent world and the conventional world; despite having knowledge about the norms and values of society, the juvenile bends towards deviant behaviour due to his permissive temptations. Matza called this process "Drift".

David Matza states that techniques of neutralization enable drift. Neutralization is the process through which youth justify their delinquent acts. However, the concept of situational delinquency is not developed and is not given much relevance to the problem of juvenile delinquency. This type of delinquency only finds its place in writing, not in reality.

Causes Of Juvenile Delinquency

There might be a lot of circumstances that make a person a criminal, but they are not born so as criminals. The environment they are exposed to inside as well as outside of their house, the behavior of family members or any other close persons, mental and physical conditions of a person, play a most important role in shaping anyone's life. In general, bad company, mental instability, love for adventures, social media, poverty, etc., are some of the reasons for juvenile delinquency.

When it comes to India, it can be said that poverty and social media play a major role in making juveniles commit crimes. The desire for money makes them inclined towards all such activities. And also, social media have the ability to imprint negative impacts on young minds. The reasons for juvenile delinquency can be majorly classified into two factors, a) social factors, b) personal factors.[4]

Social Factors

  • Broken Homes: In a home may be broken up if one or both parents have died, one or both parents are suffering from serious health problems, if one or both the parents live far away for work purposes or if both the parents are divorced. It is a very important duty of parents to educate and interact with the children. If a home is broken up because of any of the reasons, it might leave an impact on the growth of the child. Children who lost their parental love and control will become more vulnerable to anti-societal influence.
  • Poverty: As discussed above, poverty is one of the major causes of Juvenile delinquency in India. Most of the juvenile crimes are committed by children who are from the poor family background. Parents in poor homes sometimes have to work for long hours to earn bread, so most of the time children in such homes will be left uncared for. These children fall under the influence of gangsters knowingly or unknowingly and they develop a desire for money which would lead to delinquency.
  • Bad Company: The peer group, the neighbors, and the companions will have a major impact on the behavior of a child. If they are into bad companionship, this might lead to committing crimes. If the child joins a bad companionship or a group, it might lead to a change in the attitude of the child and there are high chances of him becoming delinquent.

Personal Factors

  • Mental Instability: It has been observed by many studies that a lot of a number of juvenile delinquents are mentally unstable. They might have been suffering from a mental deficiency or mental illness. As we all know, children who are mentally handicapped cannot make a distinction between what is right and what is wrong. such children become vulnerable and are often used by gangsters for criminal purposes.
  • Emotional Problems: Emotional problems such as jealousy and inferiority are common among children who are delinquent. These children become delinquent when they feel that society is against them, they are not treated in a proper manner, they are denied their basic rights. This type of inferiority will result in juvenile delinquency.

Prevention Of Juvenile Delinquency

Prevention of juvenile delinquency requires a lot of effort on the part of the entire society. only if the entire society contributes, we can successfully eradicate juvenile delinquency. Prevention of juvenile delinquency is considered an essential part of crime prevention in our society. By engaging young children in socially and legally usual activities, we can create awareness among young children as to what is right and what is wrong. Prevention of juvenile delinquency through family interventions has been proved as the best way to tackle juvenile delinquency. Family interactions have a major impact on shaping the life of the child. So, parents should stop nagging and use threats on children in order to gain control of the children.[5] Some of the other ways to prevent juvenile delinquency are:

  • Education: Educational and awareness programs such as programs for parents on how to behave with their children, how their behavior will impact the children, and the importance of interaction with their children should be conducted. Additionally, children should be properly educated in schools about social behaviors.
  • Parent:Child Interaction: Programs should be conducted about parenting skills and how interactions should happen between parents and children. Healthy discussions should take place between parents and their children to educate the child properly regarding behavior issues. Programs on how to respond to their child's behaviors should also be conducted for the parents.
  • Prevent Bullying: Most of the time, children become victims of bullying near their neighborhood by other peer groups or on the school campus. This bullying might impact the mental health of the children. Sometimes children might hold grudges and commit offenses unknowingly.
  • Recreation: Recreation programs extend opportunities for children to connect with other children and adults. They might make positive friendships that could help them in the future. These recreation programs should be designed to fit the personalities and skills of the children. Extra:curricular activities such as music, dance, sports, martial arts, painting, etc., should be provided to keep their minds refreshed and occupied.

Effects of Delinquency
The reputation of schools is damaged , and parents may experience stress and feelings of failure in their role as educators .Additionally,juvenile delinquency can lead to security disturbances in the surrounding community ,causing a sense of insecurity among residents.

It does, however, have consequences for the juvenile delinquents household, career ,and society at large. Victims of youthful delinquency are the most obvious victims .The most serious consequences of juvenile offences are socioeconomics and psychological issue that affect their family members and society as a whole .

History and Evolution of Juvenile Delinquency in India

Apprentices Act of 1850

It was the first legislation which was passed in the colonial period for dealing with children who had done something in conflict with the law. According to this act, the children who have committed some petty offences shall not be sent to prison but to treat them as apprentices i.e. a person who is undergoing a course training in industry or under any establishment.

Stand of Indian Constitution

Article 15(3), Article 39 clause(e) and (f), Articles 45 and 47, force an essential duty of guaranteeing the necessities of kids and of securing their fundamental Human Rights. The General Assembly of the United Nations received the Convention on the Rights of the Child in November 1989 and laid the norms to be trailed by all part States in ensuring the enthusiasm of the kid. It additionally underscored on social reintegration of youngster casualties.

The Indian Penal Code Act, 1860 and Criminal Strategy Code, 1861 treated kids diversely through different methodologies. Act XIX of 1850, 1876 Reformatory Schools Act, the Borstal School Act, the Children's Act of 1920, and other state:specific legislation like the Bengal Children's Act, and Madras Children's Act to address neglected and deviant children these laws gave delinquents some special provisions regarding their Institutionalization and rehabilitation.

The primary formal enactment on adolescent equity in India came in 1850 with the Apprentice Act, 1850 which required that youngsters between the ages of 10:18 indicted in courts to be given professional preparation as a component of their recovery procedure. This demonstration was transplanted by the Reformatory Schools Act, 1897 along these lines gave that youngsters up to the age of 15 might be sent to the reformatory cell, and later the Juvenile Justice Act 1986 gave a uniform component of Juvenile Justice. This demonstration was supplanted by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000.

Case Laws:
Case 1 Juvenile X v. State of U.P.:

On 18th November 2020, the minor daughter of the informant went for grazing the goats.
The revisionist (juvenile) allegedly penetrated his finger into her vagina, causing pain to the victim, who subsequently started weeping and crying1.

  • Whether the revisionist's actions constitute an offense under the relevant provisions of the law?
  • Whether the revisionist should be granted bail based on their age and circumstances?
  • The Allahabad High Court considered the revisionist's appeal against the order of the Juvenile Justice Board.
  • The revisionist was declared a juvenile by the Board.
  • The court upheld the Board's decision and rejected the bail application filed by the revisionist's natural guardian.

Case:2 Anuj kumar Vs State of U.P(2021)
Facts of the case
The petitioner applied for the post of constable and also passed the required written examination and the physical test. However, after the appointment, an inquiry was conducted by the Senior Superintendent of Police regarding the criminal history of the petitioner. It was found that the petitioner had once faced criminal prosecution, as a result of which, his appointment was refused. Aggrieved by this, the petitioner filed a writ petition in the court to set aside the cancellation of his appointment. He contended that he was a juvenile when he faced criminal prosecution and so must not be disqualified from the appointment.

Issues involved in the case
The issues involved in the case are:
  • Whether the petitioner was juvenile when he faced criminal prosecution;
  • Is the refusal of his appointment correct?

Judgement of the Court
The Allahabad High Court in this case observed that even though the plea of juvenility was not raised by the petitioner during the criminal prosecution, this does not negate the fact that he was a juvenile when he faced the trial. According to the Juvenile Justice Act, all the charges against him are to be put down and he must not face any kind of disqualification because of the criminal prosecution. The court held that the appointment of the petitioner in this case cannot be cancelled merely on the ground of criminal prosecution. The Court issued a writ of mandamus against the respondent authority and gave the following directions:
  • The respondents were directed to appoint the petitioner to the required post.
    • This appointment must be done in accordance with the law.
    • He must be given the same post for which he qualified.

Case law :3:
Narayan Chetanram chaudhary Vs State of Maharashtra (2023)

Facts of the case
The appellant in this case filed an application for claiming the plea of juvenility that at the time of commission of offence, he was a juvenile. The appellant was convicted under Sections 302, 342, 397 and 449 read with 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It was argued that at the time of the commission of the offence, he was a juvenile, and thus, he cannot be awarded with death penalty.

The issue involved in the case:
  • Whether the claim of juvenility in this case, be accepted or not?
Judgement of the Court
The Hon'ble Supreme Court in this case observed that the convict was already in prison for more than 28 years. He had faced severe limitations and difficulties during the time he was in jail. It would even have been difficult for him to find his school certificate as proof of his age for the plea of juvenility. The court further observed that his age in the school certificate was mentioned as 12 years, which means he was a juvenile at the time of the commission of offence and hence, the court accepted this certificate to determine his age.

Thus, the court, in this case, held that since he has already been in jail and served imprisonment, and according to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, no juvenile can be awarded the death penalty and hence, the order of death penalty passed by the lower court was invalidated.

The profile of children in India reveals that a majority of them are living in conditions of want, deprived of basic survival subsistence, and developmental opportunities. High rates of child mortality, school dropouts, child labour, handicapped children, and the problem of juvenile delinquency are indicators of the need for intervention by the state.

Written By: Modit Paliwal pursuing BA LLB from Mohanlal : Sukhadia University, Udaipur, a second year student of university College of law.

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