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Introduction To Juvenile Justice

A Latin maxim that suits best for the Juvenile Justice system in India is 'Nil Novi Spectrum' which implies that nothing is new on this earth. There has existed a presumption in the whole world since the ancient period that the Juveniles should be dealt with leniently because there exists a system of thought that says� Young folks generally have a habit to respond in a serious and prolonged frustration which is accompanied with aggressive approaches.

In the last few years, it is also observed that the crimes done by children under the age of 15-16 have increased significantly. The general tendency or the psychologies behind the commitment of the crime or the causes of crime are early-life experiences, dominant masculinity, upbringing, economic havocs, lack of education, etc. It is a matter of ignominy that the children under the age of 6-10 are nowadays used as instruments for carrying out unlawful or illegal activities. Since the minds of the kids possess an innocent and manipulative character, they can be lured at a meager cost.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2000

The Act was enacted in the year 2000 with the aim and intent to provide protection for children. The mentioned was amended twice � first in the year of 2006 and later in the year of 2011. The amendment was made to address the gap and loopholes in the implementation.

Further, the increasing number of cases of juvenile crimes in the last recent years and the frightful incident of the Delhi Gang Rape Case have forced lawmakers to come up with the law. The major drawback of the Act was that it contains ill-equipped legal provisions and the malfunctioning juvenile system was also the major reason in preventing juvenile crimes in India. The act was replaced soon by The Juvenile Justice( Care and Protection) Act, 2015.

Present Juvenile Justice System in India

Like the other countries, India had also made legal provisions that especially and specifically deal with the rights and protection of juvenile offenders which seeks to tackle the problem of juvenile delinquency.

The Juvenile Justice System in India is made on the basis of three main assumptions:
  • Young offenders should not be tried in courts, rather they should be corrected in all the best possible ways,
  • They should not be punished by the courts, but they should get a chance to reform
  • Trial for children in conflict with law should be based on non-penal treatment through the communities based upon the social control agencies for e.g. Observation Homes and Special Homes.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

The Juvenile Justice act of 2015 replaced the Juvenile Justice act of 2000 because there existed a need for a more robust and effective justice system that focused on deterrent as well as reformative approaches. The approach towards Juveniles should be different from that of adults, there were contentions made in the Parliament that the Juveniles should be given more space for transformation or reformation or improvement and that is only possible when there's a special justice system.

Thus, the new act i.e. the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015 focused on a Juvenile friendly approach of adjudication and disposition of matters.

Some of the salient features are as follows:

  • Section 2 (12) of the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015 gives the definition of the Child, meaning thereby that a child is a person who hasn't completed the age of 18 i.e. he/she is below 18. The Act has given a classification regarding the term Child namely Child in need of care and protection and Section 2 (13) of the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015 that talks about Child in conflict with law.
  • There was a clear distinction made regarding the facets of offenses, meaning thereby that categories were made terming the offences as heinous, serious, and petty. There have been specifications made regarding the Juveniles who are between the age of 16-18, if any kind of crime is committed by them then after due perusal of their mental capacity, they can be tried as an adult.
  • Introduction of Juvenile courts, meaning thereby that special courts were to be established that will be trying the Juvenile offences only, like that of the NDPS courts, courts dealing with POCSO, etc.
  • With the coming of the 2015 Act, the scope of the definition of Child in need of care & protection was enhanced to another level by considering the following points from the many mentioned in Section 2 (14) of the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015:
    • Those whose guardians or parents are/ were unfit or uninterested in taking care of the child.
    • Those who are/ were found performing works that are in contravention to the labor laws.
    • Ones who have the imminent threat of marriage before attaining the specified lawful age.
    • The meaning of adoption has also been specified in the Act through which the rights an adopted child stands recognized.

Causes of Juvenile Delinquency

Researches and Studies show that they are various causes of juvenile delinquency in India. Every person has different behavioral patterns so as in the case with children also. The behavior patterns develop in early childhood and at an early stage, it is very difficult to identify any kind of behavior. But as soon as, the child grows up comes out to the real-world, behavior patterns changes from time to time and many circumstances or situation may arise the delinquent behavior in them.

Following are some of the causes of Juvenile Delinquency:

  • Adolescence Instability:
    The biological, psychological, and sociological are important factors in the behavior pattern of adolescents. At this stage, teenagers become more conscious about their appearances and fashions, enjoyment, food, play and etc. And at this age, they want freedom and they wanted to be independent but sometimes they are given any chances and opportunities by their parents, teachers, and elders this leads to the development of anti-social behavior in them. Thus, this anti-social behavior, biological changes, psychological causes are some of the reasons which are responsible for juvenile delinquency.
  • Disintegration of Family System:
    Disintegration of the family system and laxity in parental control is also the main cause of increasing rates of juvenile delinquency. In normal cases divorce of parents, lack of parental control, lack of love, and affections are the major factors of juvenile delinquency.
  • Economic condition and Poverty:
    Poverty and poor economic condition are also considered as major contributing factor of increasing juvenile crimes as a result of poverty, parents or guardian fails to fulfill the needs of the child and at the same time, children want that their desires should be fulfilled by parents by hook or by cook and when their desires are met they start themselves indulging in stealing money from homes or any other parents. And this develops a habitual tendency of stealing which results in theft on a large scale.
  • Migration:
    Migration of deserted and destitute juvenile boys to slums areas brings them in contact with some anti-social elements of society that carry some illegal activities like prostitution, smuggling of drugs or narcotics, etc. These sorts of activities attract the juvenile a lot and they may involve themselves in such activities.
  • Sex Indulgence:
    The children who have experienced sexual assault or any other kind of unwanted physical assault in their early childhood may develop any kind of repulsiveness in their behavior and mind. At this age, they may become more vagrants or may want to have sex experience. Too much sex variance may lead the boys towards the crime of kidnapping and rapes etc.
  • Modern LifeStyle:
    The rapidly changing social patterns and modern living style, make it very difficult for children and adolescents to adjust themselves to the new ways of lifestyle. They are confronted with problems of cultural conflicts and are unable to differentiate between right and wrong.

Juvenile Courts

The juvenile court is also recognized as a children's court situated to handle problems of delinquent, neglected, or abused children. It is the sine qua non, to accomplish the proceeding of the court informally and paternally so that the juvenile can be treated in a cozy and child accustomed way.

Under this Juvenile Justice law and provisions of the Criminal Code Procedure, children are not to be taken to a regular criminal court, the purpose of a separate court is socio-legal rehabilitation and reformation instead of punishment. Two types of cases are processed by a juvenile court: civil matters, usually concerning the care of an abandoned child or one whose parents cannot support him; and criminal matters arising from antisocial behavior by the child.

Now regarding the courts where the juvenile is tried, if the juveniles are found to be below the age of 16 years, they will be tried by the Juvenile Justice Board. JJB consists of a Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate First Class but, not being Chief Metropolitan Magistrate or Chief Judicial Magistrate. And two social workers (one being a woman) with experience of 7 years in health, education, or welfare activities pertaining to children or, a practicing professional with a degree in child psychology, psychiatry, sociology, or the law. And maximum of 3 years of sentence can be passed.

Secondly, if the juvenile is between the age of 16-18, and has committed a heinous crime as mentioned under Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, he will be tried by the Children's court as an adult . The children's court may be an existing court of session, that is dealing with child-specific laws or a special court which are set up for the purpose of dealing with crimes under the JJ Act. And can pass sentences of more than 3 years but not the death penalty and life imprisonment. If the child is found guilty of the heinous offense, he will be sent to the observatory home till 21 years of age, after he will be sent to jail.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 also mandates for setting up of Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district.

Juvenile Justice and Constitution of India

The Constitution of India is considered the fundamental law of India. Constitution provides rights and duties of citizens. It also provides provision for the working of the government machinery. Constitution in Part III has provided Fundamental Rights for its citizens in the same manner in its Part IV it has provided Directive Principles of State Policies (DPSP) which acts as general guidelines in framing government policies.

Constitution has provided some basic rights and provisions especially for the welfare of children. Like:

  • Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children under the age of 6 to 14 years. (Article 21A)
  • Right to be protected from any hazardous employment under the age of fourteen ages. (Article 24)
  • Right to be protected from being abused in any form by an adult. (Article 39(e)).
  • Right to be protected from human trafficking and forced bonded labor system. (Article 39)
  • Right to be provided with good nutrition and a proper standard of living. (Article 47)
  • Article 15(3) of the Constitution of India provides special powers to State to make any special laws for the upliftment and the betterment of children and women.
Therefore, the lawmakers while drafting the Juvenile Act, 2015 has considered all the necessary provisions laid down by the Constitution so that child's rights are protected in all possible ways.

This is for the same reason that Chapter IV of the Act lays down the provisions for the betterment of the juveniles and has focused on the Reformation and Rehabilitation of Juveniles in all the possible circumstances.

The increasing rates of juvenile crime in India in very concerning issue and need to be focused upon. Although the government has laid various legislation and rules to stop the incidents of juvenile crimes the present laws on juveniles are not creating a deterrent effect on the juveniles and thus the results are not fruitful and the legislative intent is not accomplishing.

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