Children are the future of our country. It is the responsibility of everyone
to ensure that they have a safe and friendly environment to live in. As per the
statistics there is a huge leap in the rate of juvenile delinquency in the last
decade in developing countries like India. The basic question which arises out
of this is that how the idea of juvenile delinquency emerged? What is juvenile
delinquency? Whether the juvenile offenders who commit such heinous crimes
should be treated as adults or as minors?
What are the common causes of such delinquent acts? How poverty plays a major
role in juvenile delinquency? What are the preventive methods? What factors lead
to juvenile delinquency? Delinquency is found in all nations and is particularly
widespread in highly industrialized nations that have large cities.
The term was established so that young lawbreakers could avoid the disgrace of
being classified in legal records. The main purpose of juvenile laws is to treat
the delinquents. But the term itself has come to be a disgrace as the rate of
crimes committed by the juveniles is increased in the present scenario.
Delinquents tend to come from families where there is tension and much
difficulty in relationships. As the juvenile crime rate is increasing this is
high time that the necessary steps should be taken and an amendment should be
made in the present law to be enacted and enforced in a strict manner.
The problem of juvenile delinquency is not new to the society. It occurs in all
societies simple as well as complex. Juvenile Delinquency is committing of
criminal acts or offences by minors, i.e. juveniles (individuals younger than
the statutory age of majority).
These acts does not follow under the category of 'crimes' as they would be for
adults. Rather, crimes committed by minors or juveniles are called 'delinquent
acts'. It is not only a legal problem but also a psychological problem and the
one who has to tackle it has to consider both psychological and familial angles
of the problem.
It includes two types of behaviors, i.e. status and delinquent offences. Status
offences are the ones which are inappropriate or unhealthy for children and the
adolescents and thus the behaviour is prohibited because of the age of the
offender. Smoking, drinking, truancy and running away from home are some
examples of status offences. Delinquent offences mean violation of legal
statutes. For example, murder, rape, assault, harassment, stalking, robbery,
Special courts are established with specially trained Magistrates for the trial
of the delinquents. Instead of a 'trial', the juvenile has 'adjudication', after
which he/she receives a 'disposition' and a sentence. It also provides for the
formation of reformatory schools for the delinquents. In a developing country
like India the problem of juvenile neglect and delinquency is considerably
increasing as per the statistics1.
The basic factors of delinquency are poverty, broken homes, family tensions,
emotional abuse, rural- urban migration, breakdown of social values and joint
family system, atrocities and abuses by parents or guardians, faulty educational
system, the influence of media besides the unhealthy living conditions of slums
and such other conditions. Juvenile delinquency is more than just a doorbell
prank or two kids fighting for a ball or throwing water balloons at each other.
These can be as serious as drug related offences or crime against another
person. The idea of prevention and efforts taken for such delinquent acts
comprises of identification of the causes and risks associated with the
offences, addressing them and then forming protective factors to counterbalance
the risks. In urbanized societies where traditional life styles, social control
and local communities have become loose, their crimes rates are at the peak.
Youth are the building blocks of the future of a nation. It is our prime duty
and responsibility to make an effort to protect them and become a contributing
member of our society
Historically, the concept of juvenile justice was derived from a belief that the
problems of juvenile delinquency in abnormal situations are not amendable to the
resolution within the framework of traditional process of criminal law.3 Both
Hindu law (Manusmriti) and Islamic law (Sharia) made provisions for maintenance
and proper upbringing of the children. Under these, the sole responsibility to
provide care and protection to children was of the parents.
If in case the families were unable to protect and take care of the children
then someone from the community took care of the children. The Hindu law and
Islamic law have mentioned different punishments for the children for certain
offences. In Muslim law, if a child is found throwing filth on the public road,
there is a specific injunction which forbids execution of the children.4
On the other hand, under Hindu law, the child has to clean the place and the
adult has to pay the fine for the act.5 Prior to adopting the English ideology,
the Indian culture treated child in need of protection and care and if any
offence is committed by him/her, they cannot be treated as per the adult laws
India has a long history of providing separate treatment for juvenile
This different treatment can be traced as far back as the Code of Hammurabi in
1970 BC. Under this code, the responsibility for the supervision and maintenance
of children was vested upon the family.The English ideology of providing
separate treatment for juvenile was passed to India in the last quarter of the
The Apprentices Act, 1850 is chronologically the first English law meant to deal
with the children in distresses that are to be trained for trade and industry.
This act was enacted to provide that the children under the age of 15 years who
have committed petty offences will be bounded as apprentices.
Though, during the colonial regime, in 1843, the first center for those children
called "Ragging School" was established by Lord Cornwallis. During the
British Rule laws like Whipping Act of 1864 was passed to punish the juvenile
through whipping and then setting them free so that they don't repeat the same
act and to address the issue of juvenile delinquency and child welfare. The
Indian Penal Code, 1860 exempts children under the age of seven years from
criminal responsibility, i.e. section 82 and treats them differently through
Later, the Reformatory Schools Act, 1897 came into effect which provided that
children up to the age of 15 years sentenced to imprisonment would be sent to
reformatory cells. Only after the Independence, The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986
was enacted for providing care, protection, rehabilitation and development of
delinquent juveniles. The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was introduced for
formation of a uniform system and procedure in the area of juvenile justice all
over the country.
Under this Act, the age of male juvenile was kept sixteen years and for girl age
was kept eighteen years. Act defines 'juvenile' under the section 2 (a) as a
'boy who has not attained the age of 16 years and a girl who has not attained
the age of 18 years.'This law was passed prior to the UNCRC (United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child), 1989 which was ratified by India after
1992. In 2000, the former law was repealed and a new law which was more
exhaustive, i.e. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,
2000 was enacted and later it was amended to increase the age of the child to 18
years to adhere to the International ratified laws.
The one of the reasons behind juvenile justice law's enactment was to attain
constitutional vision of India concerning care and welfare of children. The
provisions under constitution of India which grants special status to the
children are Article 15(3), 24, 39(e) & (f) and 45. Further Child Prohibition
Act, 1986 was enacted through constitutional directions. National Policy for
Children, 1974 & 2013 declare that children are national asset.The Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 lays down that juvenile offender may be
kept in an 'Observation Home'.
On the other hand, children in need of care and protection need to be kept in a
'Children Home' while the proceedings are pending before the competent
authority. The main purpose behind this Act was to rehabilitate the child and
incorporate him/her in the mainstream society. The ideology behind this step is
that there are possibilities of getting reformed due to his/her tender age and
lack of maturity. Hence, placing a responsibility over the State to protect and
reform the child.
Delinquency exhibits a variety of styles of conduct or forms of behaviours. Each
pattern has its own type of social context. Juvenile delinquency can be broadly
classified into four types by Howard Becker in 1966, i.e. individual, group-
supported, organized and situational delinquency. Individual delinquency
comprises of all the delinquent acts committed by the juvenile individually. The
cause is located within the individual delinquent.
The psychiatrists state that these are caused due to psychological problems.
These psychological problems stem primarily out of defective and pathological
family interaction patterns. The psychiatrists tried to compare the delinquent
siblings from the non-delinquent ones and found the most common cause of
committing such offence as they were unhappy and felt discontented with their
They indulge in delinquent acts for gaining attention from family or peers in
the first place. Others commit the delinquent acts to reduce their guilt
feelings. They also found that delinquent ones differed from the non-delinquent
ones on the basis of their relationship with their fathers more than their
mothers. In addition, their discipline was also more harsh and stern.
On the other hand, group-supported delinquencies are committed in companionship
with others. The causes are not located merely in the individual's personality
or in the delinquent's family but in the culture of the delinquent's home and
neighbourhood. The main reason behind such delinquent acts is companionship with
others who are already delinquents.
The psychology check behind this is what is learnt and who it is learnt from
rather than the problems which might have motivated the individual to commit
such delinquent acts. Organized delinquencies are committed by formally
organized groups. This involves certain set of values and norms which guide the
behaviour of the youth in the commission of delinquent acts.
The above mentioned types of delinquencies have one thing in common, i.e. the
delinquency is viewed as having deep roots. Like, in individual delinquency's
cause lies deep down in the individual. While in organized and group-supported
delinquencies the root cause lies in the structure of the society. In
situational delinquency the root causes does not lie down deeply.
Thus the controlling of such delinquent acts is easy as compared to the other
types of the delinquencies. There are three major categories of juvenile
delinquency, i.e. violent crimes which result in bodily injury (such as assault,
murder and rape), property crimes are committed when a juvenile uses force or
threat of force to obtain the property of others and drug related crimes involve
possession or sale of illegal narcotics. In "Juvenile Delinquency: Concept and
Control", Trojannovicz categorized juvenile delinquents into five categories.
They are gang organized and collective delinquency, unsocialized aggressive
boys, accidental offender, occasional delinquency and professional
delinquency.Eaton and Polk in "Measuring Delinquency"7 classified juvenile
delinquencies into five major categories, i.e. minor violations which include
minor traffic violation, property violation, major traffic violations which
include automobile theft, human addiction which include alcohol and drug
addiction and bodily harm which include homicide offences.
No one is a born criminal. The various circumstance both inside and outside of
the house of the child play a significant role in shaping one's life. The most
common causes which associate with delinquent crimes are poverty, child abuse,
mental conflicts, adolescent instability, drug abuse, abusive parents, family
violence and anti-social peer group.
However, as far as India is concerned poverty plays a major role in child's
life. This is one of the major cause because of which children inclines
themselves towards criminal acts. Poverty forces a child to get involved in
The vast majority of those arrested and convicted belong to poor economic
status. As they lack resources the police as well as other law enforcing
authorities are severe on them. The people in better economic comfort are seen
to be quite favourable in administrative processes of law enforcement. Poverty
engenders antisocial activities in many ways. Unsatisfactory human relations
have been frequently seen to emanate from destitution and poverty.
As poor people have lower mental resistance due to undernourishment and poor
physical neighbourhood and the environment is not adequate as they have no other
choice in the selection of residential locality. This leads to poor
circumstances as the child are driven to seek their recreations on the streets.
The budgeting problem fuels up the quarrels between the husband and wife and
thus they are not able to give proper attention and care to their children
though they have affection for them.
Further, because of lack of money, the reasonable demands of school going
children are mocked and education eventually suffers. Poverty does different
things to different people, like for some its pressure can cause anti-social
behaviour.Social-media today is having more negative than positive imprints on
young minds. There is a growing concern that the social-media which undoubtedly
inform, educate and entertain have become a source of contamination in child's
They tend to provide sensational information about the crime, i.e. the types and
techniques of the weapons. And this further leads to children either committing
the delinquent act with vengeful mind set or they tend to educate their
companions about the same. Motion movies show that the crimes are exciting and
tend to show that there are ways in which the law can be eradicated. The prime
culprits are those films and programs loaded with violence and vulgarity.
This type of violence and vulgarity alleges to induce viewers for committing
rapes, robbery, assault or murder. In India, a developing country where the
literacy level is low these types of actions have more impact on the general
attitude and behaviour. There are numerous causes of juvenile delinquency. These
include domestic violence, living in areas of poverty and high crime rates,
inadequate social support and lack of access to education.
None of the young delinquents were born with hostility, rage and hatred their
environment and society has turned them into one. Many juvenile behaviours,
during the pre-teen and teenage years may be considered normal behaviour for
children. However, there are certain signs that a child might be involved in bad
direction. These include chronic violation of rules, aggressive behaviour, etc.
There are certain risk factors which are common in juvenile delinquents are peer
association, low socioeconomic status, poor school performance, peer rejection,
mental disorders, permissive parenting and authoritarian parenting
Structural breaks in the family, except in case of death of any family member
leads to tension, quarrels and disruption of peaceful living have a traumatic
effect on the children. Though, in some circumstances the family environment
tends to improve the atmosphere. The main reason behind such improvement is the
inter-personal communication and conditions of the family members. Through the
years, one of the most common cause of juvenile delinquency is the parental
inadequacy, i.e. their role in upbringing of the children.
The early family training can help in inculcation of the values and norms which
makes the child aware of the values of the society and acquires characteristic
of it. The children must have the knowledge about the actions which are
permitted, prohibited and the reason behind that too.
He/she must know how to get along with others, i.e. other children and adults.
Depending upon the pattern of how the child is handled and who is the role model
in the family the child starts to learn the basic responsibilities, i.e. inside
and outside the house. The important role that the parents have to do is that
behaving in a proper and consistent manner so that the child does not feel
There are a number of factors which contributes towards the criminal nature of
the youth. Poverty is one of the main factors of a delinquent youth. Other
factors comprises of peer pressure, neighbourhood, etc. most of these
delinquents come from families of abuse or discord or desertions or divorce.
Education though plays a major role in moulding the future of the children but
the system lacks this ability and thus contributes towards juvenile delinquency
From the above discussion, it is clearly stated that mere proper implementation
and amendments of Juvenile Justice Act cannot help reduce juvenile
delinquencies. It is vital to make aware of civil society about this disease
that exists in our society. Juveniles involved in crimes are just not the
criminals but also the victims of this sick society. Juvenile delinquency can be
stopped at an early age, provided that due care is taken in the home and in the
school. Parents and teachers play a significant role in nurturing and moulding
the mind of the child. Instead of labeling the juvenile delinquents necessary
steps should be taken to give them a scope of rectification.
The errors made by them, i.e. either social or psychological should be brought
to their notice as soon as possible. This social evil unlike any other crime is
linked with the maladjustment and imperfections of our society. There is no
proof that harsher laws will lead to fewer crimes. The ideal is gradually
gaining the wider acceptance that juvenile delinquent needs the sympathy and
understanding of our society and not just the heavy hand of law.
Written By: Diksha Vashist
Law Article in India
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