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Juvenile Delinquency: Juvenile Justice And Juvenile Courts In India

I would like to start by quoting one of the famous quotes by Fredrick Douglass:
'It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men'. Now Let us first see who a juvenile is? A Juvenile can be defined as a person who has not reached or attained the age of 18 according to Section 2(k) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000.In addition to this, A juvenile can also be defined as a young person who has not reached a specific age as prescribed by a country's law and further does not bear resemblance to a matured person further who can also be held legally responsible and liable for his or her criminal activities and offences.

In addition to this, youth are regarded as one of a country's most valuable assets. If this population is not well groomed and polished, a country's future is unlikely to be bright. Thus we as a society have a moral and ethical obligation which need to be followed to provide a safe environment for all children to learn and grow in it.

Apart from this, Juvenile crime is not born in the child naturally, but rather it is largely present in him as a result of his upbringing and surroundings, his own absurd actions, or lack of discipline and proper education. This particular paper will particularly focus on Juvenile justice and juvenile courts in India. Further it will also highlight the causes and effects of Juvenile delinquency in India. Towards the end some suggestions and recommendations have been discussed to prevent juvenile delinquency in our society.

Juvenile Delinquency can be defined as the involvement of minors in illegal activities. When a person's behaviour deviates from the normal course of his social life, he is referred to as a delinquent. In other words, a juvenile delinquent is someone whose actions are dangerous in nature, to society and to himself. The Running away from home, using inappropriate or vulgar language, and committing sexual offences, are some of the very famous examples of Juvenile Delinquency.

As According to Section 2(k) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 defines a Juvenile as a person who has not completed 18th year of age. The main aims of juvenile justice are that it is mainly based on children's rights, It also employs the principle of restorative justice which further seeks to restore the balance of a situation disrupted by crime rather than simply punishing the offender. This particular system prioritizes the child's best interests. Also the primary goal of this particular system is to focus on the prevention of crimes and injustices committed against juveniles. Juvenile delinquency in other terms is also known as juvenile offending.

Juvenile Delinquency behavioural aspect
The behavioral aspect plays a very important and evident role in the juvenile delinquency as the behavioral patterns in children keeps on changing from time to time. Further this is also known as the factor of individuality where a minor with low intelligence who has not received adequate education is more likely to engage in delinquent behaviour. Other factors that may be present in a Juvenile delinquent includes impulsive behaviour, uncontrollable aggression, and an inability to delay gratification. Further mental Individual factors include health factors as well. An individual's mental state is extremely important because of his social behaviour. As a result, these factors can contribute to a juvenile's involvement in harmful, illegal and destructive activities.

Juvenile Delinquency at adolescent stage
The adolescent stage can be defined as a transitional period which occurs between 13-19 years of age wherein physical and psychological changes takes place in adolescence. The main characteristics of adolescence includes the biological growth and development, An undefined status, increased decision making, increased pressures, and the search for self[1]. Further in this particular stage teenagers become more conscious about their looks, some may develop anger and aggressive nature and few may also demand for freedom and independence. It can also be defined as a stage wherein the child might get easily influenced and further may walk on the wrong direction which may further encourage them to indulge in illegal activities.

Causes Of Juvenile Delinquency

There are many theoretical, external, internal and psychological causes which leads to juvenile delinquency, Some of the causes are listed below:
  • The element of family involvement-
    It is inclusive of ongoing family feuds, neglect and abuse or absence of proper parental supervision. In addition to this children whose parents or guardians demonstrate lack of respect of law and social norms of the country may imbibe and portray the same attitude. Thus children that further display the weakest attachments with their families appear to be the same juveniles who engage in inappropriate activities this is because of improper grooming on the part of family.
  • The factor of substance abuse-
    It is one the most important factor which leads to juvenile delinquency, As the children may further indulge themselves in activities such as drinking alcohol, smoking and high level drugs which further make them commit crimes. Moreover,

    when a child is under the great influence of drugs or alcohol, he is most likely to engage in destructive, harmful and illegal activities which further makes him mentally psychologically unfit.
  • Theoretical Cause of Rational choice-
    According to the psychologists behavioural study done on delinquent children, It has been concluded and reported that a child does any delinquent act because his respective mind instructs him to do so. Further in addition to this he does this because he wants to do it according to his own will. Thus such kinds of acts provides immense satisfaction to the offenders and thus they see nothing wrong in it while committing the crimes.
  • Social Disorganization-
    As the notion of joint family system where children were groomed with values and discipline is coming to an end and thus paving its way for nuclear family system where both mother and father are working, thus making the child left neglected and thus such isolation leads the child's involvement in wrongful acts.
  • Bad influence and company (peer Association)-
    It is one of the main reasons for Juvenile delinquency wherein children indulge in criminal activities knowingly or unknowingly due to bad influence and company. Further it is this bad company which motivates them to commit crime. In addition to this it also leads to labelling wherein a child who commits crime is labelled as a criminal which further makes his/her mind psychologically imbalanced thus motivating him to commit more crimes.
  • External cause of atmosphere at home and neighbourhood-
    As soon as a child is born in a particular family, It is the first institution in which he/she comes in contact with. Thus lack of love and affection from the family can further indulge a child in criminal activities. Bad treatment from a step mothers or fathers, poverty, bad effect and influence of T.V or Internet or social media can make a child commit crime. Such cases are mostly seen with children who do not have anyone to look after them after they return from school further there is least or excess of discipline exercised on them by the elders of the family. Further neighbourhood is that part of the society which may affect the acts of an individual at large. It marks an individual's ability to deal with Delinquency. If one finds gamblers, quarrelling couples, drunkards around him, then this is all that he would fall into and finally end up as a criminal performing criminal activities.

Evolution And History Of Juvenile Delinquency In India And Different Stages Of Legislations

The history of juvenile delinquency in India can be categorized into different time periods in accordance with legislative developments in the Indian legal system.

Apprentices Act Of 1850

It was the first ever legislation in India which was passed in the colonial period for particularly dealing with children who had done something in conflict with the law and thus regarded as a criminal offence in the eyes of the law[2]. According to this particular act, the children who have committed some petty offences shall not be sent to prison but to treat them as apprentices which is regarded as a person who is undergoing a course training in industry or under any establishment.

Now talking about the Indian Constitution stand on it, Articles such as Article 15(3) in The Constitution of India 1949, Article 39(e) and (f) in The Constitution of India 1949 and Article 45 and 47 of the Constitution of India 1949 impose an essential duty of guaranteeing the necessities of kids and of securing their fundamental human rights. In addition to this in November 1989 the General Assembly of United Nations had received the Convention on Rights of the Child which further had laid down the norms which had to be followed by each and every state of India particularly for ensuring betterment of the children.

Laws which gave delinquents some special provisions regarding their Institutionalization and rehabilitation are listed below:
The Indian Penal Code Act, 1860 and Criminal Strategy Code, 1861which treat children diversely through different methodology and systems. Act XIX of 1850, 1876 reformatory schools act, The Borstal School Act, Children's Act of 1920, and other state-specific legislation like Bengal Children's Act, Madras Children's Act to address neglected and deviant children's, are some of special provisions given to delinquents.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986:

The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was the first central law on juvenile justice that provided a uniform law for the whole country in this respect. This particular act was enacted by the parliament for the care, protection, treatment, rehabilitation and development of delinquent and neglected juveniles[3]. Further this particular act was repealed and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 was enacted.

The Juvenile Justice (Care And Protection) Act, 2000:

This legislation strives to achieve a balance between child rights and justice by not sentencing juveniles to the death sentence and life imprisonment[4]. This particular act extends to whole of India further this act focuses on three types of juvenile or children problems which are listed below:
  • Juvenile in conflict with the law.
  • Child in need of care and protection.
  • Rehabilitation and social reintegration of the child.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2014

It had replaced the juvenile justice (care and protection) act, 2000.This particular bill further permits and allows juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences. In addition to this, any 16-18 year old, who commits a lesser, serious offence, may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years. Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) and Child Welfare Committees (CWC) will be further constituted in each district[5].

The JJB will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult. The CWC will further examine institutional care for children in need of care and protection. Further the main objectives of this act is to ensure that every child enjoys his Rights ,To stay on protection and care of children without facing harassment or abuse, To ensure swiftly and productively reintegrated into the society in case he was found to be in conflict with law ,To streamlining the central adoption agency.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

This particular act came into force on 15th January,2016. Further according to the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2015 which provides the criminal responsibility, the age of criminal majority starts from the age of 16 to 18 years whosoever commits a serious offence. Thus, also attracts a minimum 7 years of imprisonment. Further, no child under the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2015 can be awarded a Death Penalty & Life Imprisonment[6].

Now talking about its main objectives, It aims to focus and change the law related to Juvenile's children who are supposed & found to be in conflict with the law & children in need of Care & Protection by fulfilling their basic necessities through proper care & nourishment, protection, treatment, social integration, trainings and also by adopting a child-friendly approach[7].

Also the key highlight provisions of the Juvenile justice act, 2015 includes change in classification from 'adolescent' to 'kid' or 'kid in strife with law', over the Act to expel the negative implication related with "adolescent", incorporation of a few new definitions, for example, stranded, deserted and surrendered kids and negligible, genuine and egregious offenses conferred by kids are few of them.

Further The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2018 had been introduced in the Lok Sabha which further aim is towards the amendment of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015[8].

Some Important Highlighted Cases Related To Juvenile Delinquency In India

  • Nirbhaya gang-rape case:
    The 2012 Delhi gang-rape is a widely known landmark case that led to changes in the Indian judiciary system. One of the rapists in the case was a minor. The sixth defendant's name cannot be given for legal reasons as he was 17 at the time of the crime and was tried as a minor. He is now an adult[9]. He was found guilty on charges of rape and murder and sentenced to three years in a reform facility which is the maximum sentence available to a juvenile.

    Further he was released from a correctional center on 20 December 2015, despite protests and legal challenges. His identity has been changed and no record of his crime will remain in the public domain. Further the amendment in the 2000 law came about because of public outrage and importance at the infamous Delhi gang-rape case (Nirbhaya Case) in 2012. As one of the offenders in the case was a juvenile. Further the legislation strives to achieve a balance between child rights and justice by not sentencing juveniles to the death sentence and life imprisonment.
  • In this particular case of Gopinath Gosh vs State of West Bengal, the accused had given his age as much above the cut-off age prescribed for being a child. Further in this case, the court not only allowed the plea of child status to be raised for the first time but also referred the matter to the sessions judge for a determination of the age of the accused. Approving this approach, the Supreme Court in Rajinder Chandra v State of Chhattisgarh, in addition to this laid down that the standard of proof for age determination is the degree of probability and not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Highlighting The Statistics
According to the reports the percentage of juvenile crimes to total cognizable crimes came down a shade from 1.2% in 2013 to 1.18% in 2014. Further Incidence of total crime increased from 26.47 lakh in 2013 to 28.51 lakh in 2014[10]. According to this the reported rate of crime against children in India 2019, by state, The highest crime rate against children was reported in the union territory of Lakshadweep with over 144 ,Which was further followed by capital territory of Delhi with 139 reported cases per 100,000 child population in 2019.

Juvenile Courts In India

To understand the juvenile justice system in great detail let us understand the juvenile courts in wider and broader aspect.

Juvenile courts are the courts wherein cases generally go when a minor is accused of committing a crime. The proceedings are civil rather than criminal[11]. As a result, rather than being charged with a crime, juvenile offenders are accused of committing a delinquent act. In addition to this a juvenile case generally gets started when a prosecutor or probation officer files a civil petition, charging the juvenile with violating a criminal statute and thus further asking that the court determine that the juvenile is delinquent[12].

If the charges are proved and a delinquency determination is made, the juvenile offender comes under the courts broad powers. At that particular point, the juvenile court has the authority to do what it considers to be in the best interest of the juvenile.

Now talking about the legibility criteria of the juvenile courts it is 17 years of age. In addition to this not all cases heard in juvenile court are delinquency cases (those involving the commission of a crime). There are two other types of cases also which are dependency cases and status offenses. Further the juvenile court is a judicial tribunal distinguished by unique procedures and methods of dealing with juveniles.

In many aspects, it differs from the traditional adult criminal court and reflects the belief that a misbehaving child requires protection and should be rehabilitated rather than having to defend himself under the contentious criminal law adults only justice system.

Now highlighting the difference between a child and a juvenile:
A minor is regarded as a person who is under the age of legal obligation and responsibility, or further who is under the legal age of 18 years according to the law[13]. On the other hand a child accused of a crime is not tried as an adult and is further sent to the Child Care Centre for proper psychosocial and mental treatment and care, whereas a juvenile is someone aged sixteen to eighteen as prescribed by law.

What's the difference between juvenile criminal court and Adult criminal court:
  1. First, adults are prosecuted for committing crimes while on the other hand juveniles are prosecuted for committing delinquent acts. Further if the delinquent acts are extremely serious in nature, such as murder, the court system may further decide to charge the juvenile as an adult, in that particular case they would be tried in the adult crime system as according to the law system.
  2. Secondly, In the adult court system the defendant is charged by using a document called a complaint, whereas on the other hand in the juvenile court, the child is charged with a document called a Petition.
  3. Thirdly, In the adult court if the defendant is found guilty, they are convicted, whereas in juvenile court the child is adjudicated delinquent[14].
  4. Fourthly, In the case of, juvenile court is much more focused on the best and favourable interests of the child, and trying to make sure they are rehabilitated before becoming an adult. There is much more emphasis on treatment, therapy, education. moral and ethical values rather than punishment.
  5. Courts in the adult crime system are much more formal, whereas on the other hand courts in the juvenile crime system are more informal. As rules and regulations about the admission of evidence is much more lenient in the juvenile crime system.

Further now talking about the Juvenile Justice Board, It particularly aims to deal with such children in conflict with the law in the best possible and responsible manner so that they can be integrated into society as a contributing member at a later stage[15].

Suggestions and recommendations to prevent juvenile crimes (juvenile delinquency):
Prevention is necessary and very important for such delinquent children who easily gets indulged in criminal activities because of internal as well as external factors. The first and most important step is the identification of such juveniles and then further providing them with the required treatment and care. In addition to this these adolescents become habitual offenders if not timely stopped and given required treatment and assistance[16].

Moreover, the most effective and efficient way to prevent juvenile delinquency has indubitably been to assist children and their families from the very beginning. Further the state programs attempt at early intervention, allowing numerous groups to tackle this problem in a number of ways. Also there are many Jurists and criminologists who suggest various provisions for the prevention of juvenile delinquency.

Some of them are first, individual programs which involves the prevention of delinquency through counselling, psychotherapy and proper education and second, environmental Programs which involves the employment of techniques with a view to change the socio-economic context likely to promote delinquency. In addition to this many field- programmes are also to be included which further provide a practical knowledge and experience with required demonstrations.

Delinquency Prevention is the broad and wider terminology for all efforts which are aimed at preventing youth from getting involved in criminal and other antisocial activities which further not only harms the society but also the offenders themselves. In addition to this various governments are recognizing the importance of allocating resources for the prevention of delinquency not only in India but also in other parts of the world.

Further prevention services include activities such as substance abuse education and programmes, treatment and protection programmes, family counselling programmes and reports, youth mentoring, parenting education, educational support youth sheltering, psychological and moral therapy.

Now talking about the role of social workers and non- governmental organisations, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act lays emphasis on the participation of voluntary social workers and community services for the benefit of minors at different times and stages[17] .Further this requires the active participation of social and community workers from non-governmental organizations in admission, decision-making, community placement and organization, institutionalization and rehabilitation of neglected and delinquent children.

In the child protection sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play a active and important role as they must provide a outline or a framework that ensures that every child, even as they enter the system, is treated with proper care and compassion. They are also further fighting for the rights of the child to be recognized and protected. Social workers continue to play a crucial role in the treatment of juvenile offenders, although since the 1980s the welfare approach has been brought to justice.

Now talking about the role of family, School and peer association, parents and other family members from the beginning should nurture kids with ethical values and moral lessons further they should provide children with proper education and training so that they could use their young mind in the right direction of knowledge and further in the future become responsible citizens of their respective countries.

Apart from this value education classes should also be organized by the schools wherein importance of religion and education should be taught. Further Sponsorships should also be provided for the education of juveniles for their better future. Personality enhancement courses should be organized where they could introspect themselves and further work on their personality development.

In addition to this special training program must be organized and the officers of the Board including the Principal Magistrate should be given training of child psychology and child welfare. Further for better welfare of juvenile games, sports and other functional and expositional programs must be organized where they could learn new skills. In addition to this national commission for children's welfare was suggested by the high-level committee constituted by the Supreme Court in a public interest petition for the basic facilities for children engaged in the fireworks industry in Madras and Sivakasi in the early 1990s.

Further according to section 8 of juvenile justice act of 2000 provides that the state government may establish and operate observation houses in each district or group of districts, section 9 of juvenile justice act of 2000 states the state government may establish and maintain special homes in each district or group of districts, According to section 37 of the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000, Shelters Homes as for children in need of urgent support.

Shelter homes provide children with space where they can play and engage in creative and exciting activities where they could learn and develop new skills. Further by adding a suggestion I would like to comment that because as juvenile delinquency is an ongoing problem in today's society, There must be some training and awareness programs where analytically and rationally the problem of juvenile delinquency should be highlighted in brief.

Now in the end I would like to conclude my research paper on Juvenile delinquency- Juvenile Justise and Juvenile courts in India by quoting one of the very famous quotes by Robert Sapolsky that:
Juvenile justice is probably the area that's most ripe for reform, in the nice liberal sense of the word, simply because there's no getting around the fact that a teenage brain is not an adult brain[18]. -Robert Sapolsky

Additionally speaking children nowadays gets easily attracted to bad influence due to the modern and western lifestyle, wherein they indulge themselves in criminal activities which are offensive in nature, rather it be a underage drinking and driving or committing heinous crimes such as murders.

Further to prevent this children from the beginning itself should be taught the difference between right and wrong so that the young minds work for betterment of the society, behave and walk on the right path in their respective lives and thus become responsible and respectable citizens of their respective countries. In addition to this a safe environment must be created for the children where they could learn and imbibe good values from their elders and thus further implement them in their course of lifetime.

Further I would also like to highlight the fact that children tend to get fascinated or influenced by their elders, thus it is our responsibility to set a good example for them so that they can work on their moral and rational thinking.

Moreover, I would like to end my research paper on a good note by saying that every good citizen helps its nation to grow thus children who work hard and learn are further regarded as good and responsible citizens of their respective nation or society.


    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Maanavi Kapoor
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: SP126205647058-19-0921

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