Juvenile delinquency is a miserable reality in India that should be stood up to. A Juvenile is a child who has not arrived at the age at which the person can be considered responsible for unlawful behavior in the very way that a grown-up can be considered responsible. In this unique situation, the terms Juvenile and Minor are utilized conversely. While the expressions “Juvenile ” and “minor” are now and again utilized reciprocally in normal discourse, the expressions “Juvenile ” and “minor” have particular legitimate implications. The term Juvenile alludes to a youthful criminal wrongdoer, while the term minor alludes to a legitimate person limit or isn’t of lawful age.
In very simple words, juvenile delinquency is the participation in illegal activities by minors. A juvenile delinquent is a person who is typically under the age of 18 and commits an act that otherwise would have been charged and tried as adults. So it is quite clear that juvenile delinquency is also a part of all those behavioural change that occurs in a person’s life while passing the stormy phase of adolescence, though it is not found in every adolescent. The degree of delinquency varies from one to another and it remains unnoticed unless and until the particular act becomes the concern of the society.
Since adolescence is the transitional period of life, during this phase one passes through rapid revolutionary changes in one’s physical, mental, moral, spiritual, sex and social outlook. They become emotionally unstable and frequent mood change is observed. It is a period of anxieties, worries, conflicts and complexities. Therefore, during this period, they do certain things in order to satisfy one need or the other which often lead them to becoming delinquent.
Background of Juvenile Justice Law in India
Prior to the enactment of the juvenile justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 which came into force on December 30, 2000, the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was the governing law on the subject. Before this act was introduced on October 2,1987 the Children Act, 1960 was operative through the country The States were, however, authorized to enact their own laws for the care and protection of the delinquent children and juveniles. A perusal of the working of the Children Act, 1960 which was subsequently repealed by the JJ Act,1986, would indicate that greater attention was required to be given to children who were found in situations of social maladjustment, delinquency or parental neglect. It was deemed necessary that a uniform juvenile justice system should be introduced throughout India which would take into account all aspects of the social, cultural and economic change in the country. India, being a signatory to the convention, drew up a comprehensive uniform legislation to replace the Children Act, 1960 and the State enactments framed there under. Consequently Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was enacted and came into force on October 2,1987.
Juvenile crimes in India
As per the 2018 Crime in India report, about 85% of the apprehended juveniles lived with their parents, which clearly reflects an inherent failure of the system in terms of nurturing the future generation. Moreover, 92% of juvenile cases were IPC-related crimes. Almost 40% of the offences were related to affecting the human body, which included hurt and grievous hurt, rape and assault on women to outrage their modesty among many others. Apart from this, property-related offences amounted to about 38% of all crimes involving juveniles. Theft constituted 70% of these offences.
As per 2012 National Bureau of Crime Records, in 2012, 27,936 juveniles were involved in serious crimes including banditry, murder, rape and rioting. From among those who faced Juvenile Justice Boards in 2012, 66.6% were between 16 and 18 years, 30.9% were between 12 and 16 years and 2.5 % were even those from 7 to 12 years. There was an increase by 143% in rapes by juveniles, 87% in murders, 500% in kidnappings of women and girls by minors. These statistics can certainly not be ignored.
Moreover, the NCRB data reveals and is of graver concern that there has been a steady increase in the gravity of heinousness and gruesomeness of the crimes committed by juveniles, of late, and almost 30% of them are from the age group of 12 to 16 years.
The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 lays down that if the minor is 16 years and above and is involved in a heinous crime, then on the assessment report of the Juvenile Board, the case can be tried in the children’s court and the minors would be treated as adults and would be subjected to criminal procedure.
Law on Juvenile Crimes
In India, the Apprentices Act, 1850, was the primary piece of regulation to address Juvenile oﬀences. It accommodated the limiting of youngsters younger than 15 who were seen as at real fault for piddling oﬀences as students. Following that, the Reformatory Schools Act of 1897 became a regulation, expecting that children younger than 15 indicted to imprisonment be moved to a reformatory cell as a discipline. After Independence, Parliament endorsed the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, with the express motivation behind giving consideration, security, advancement, and recovery to dismissed or delinquent youngsters. At the end of the day, it was a piece of regulation that laid out a uniform framework the nation over. A “child who has not achieved the age of sixteen years” and a “lady who has not acquired the age of eighteen years” are considered “Juveniles” under Section 2(a) of the Act. Soon thereafter, Parliament passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000, raising the age of assent for young ladies and young men to 18 years under the Juvenile equity framework.
After replacing the Indian juvenile delinquency law, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, the Parliament has passed, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, amidst intense controversy, debate and protest against many of its provisions by the Child Rights fraternity. It allows for juveniles in conflict with law in the age group of 16–18, involved in Heinous Offences, to be tried as adults. It was passed on May 7, 2015 by the Lok Sabha amid intense protest by several MPs. It was passed on December 22, 2015 by the Rajya Sabha.
Last year, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021, which seeks to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, was passed by Parliament. The amendments include authorizing the District Magistrate, including the Additional District Magistrate, to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act, in order to ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance accountability. The District Magistrates have been further empowered under the Act, to ensure its smooth implementation, as well as garner synergized efforts in favour of children in distress conditions. As per the amended provisions of the Act, any Child Care Institutions shall be registered after considering the recommendations of the District Magistrate. The DM shall independently evaluate the functioning of District Child Protection Units, Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards, Specialized Juvenile Police Units, Child Care Institutions etc.
Causes of delinquency
Understanding the causes of juvenile delinquency is an integral part of preventing a young person from involvement in inappropriate, harmful and illegal conduct. Four primary risk factors can identify young people inclined to delinquent activities: individual, family, mental health and substance abuse. Often, a juvenile is exposed to risk factors in more than one of these classifications.
A. SOCIAL FACTORS
1. BROKEN HOMES
As per the discoveries of one of Uday Shankar’s examinations in India, 13.3 percent of 140 reprobates came from broken homes. A family can crumble for an assortment of reasons, including the passing of one or the two guardians, delayed sickness or madness, abandonment, or separation. A consistent pattern of family risk factors are associated with the development of delinquent behaviour in young people. These family risk factors include a lack of proper parental supervision, ongoing parental conflict, neglect and abuse (emotional, psychological or physical). Parents who demonstrate a lack of respect for the law and social norms are likely to have children who think similarly. Finally, those children that display the weakest attachment to their parents and families are precisely the same juveniles who engage in inappropriate activities, including delinquent conduct.
2. SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Substance abuse is found in a majority of cases of juvenile delinquency. Two trends are identified in regard to substance abuse and minors. First, juveniles are using more powerful drugs today than 10 years ago. Second, the age at which some juveniles begin using drugs is younger. Children in elementary schools are found to be using powerful illegal drugs. The use of these illegal substances or the use of legal substances illegally motivates young people to commit crimes to obtain money for drugs. Additionally, juveniles are far more likely to engage in destructive, harmful and illegal activities when using drugs and alcohol.
B. Personal or individual factors
Personal factors such as mental health problems and behaviour disturbances may also contribute to juvenile delinquency.
1. MENTAL HEALTH FACTORS
Several mental health factors are also seen as contributing to juvenile delinquency. It is important to keep in mind, however, that a diagnosis of certain types of mental health conditions, primarily personality disorders, cannot be made in regard to a child. However, there are precursors of these conditions that can be exhibited in childhood that tend to end up being displayed through delinquent behaviour. A common one is conduct disorder. Conduct disorder is defined as “a lack of empathy and disregard for societal norms.” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, American Psychiatric Association, 2004.)
2. Individual factors
Several risk factors are identified with juvenile delinquency. A minor who has a lower intelligence and who does not receive a proper education is more prone to become involved in delinquent conduct. Other risk factors include impulsive behaviour, uncontrolled aggression and an inability to delay gratification. In many instances, multiple individual risk factors can be identified as contribution to a juvenile involvement in harmful, destructive and illegal activities.
Judicial trends on juvenile delinquency
It is the primary duty and responsibility of the court that before convicting a person it must determine the age of such person whether he is juvenile or not. The courts have held that very young children should not be sent to prison. In Smt. Prabhati v. Emperor, it was held that as far as possible such young children should be released under the supervision and care of their parents or guardians. The court must have clear evidence of the age of a person before sending him/her to reformatory school. It was clarified that a child could not be sent to a reformatory school unless an order of institutionalization, that is, of imprisonment, was made.
The judiciary in India plays a very important role and has passed many significant judgments in favor of child rights:
In Sheela Barse v Union of India, The Supreme Court issued directions to the state government to set up necessary observation homes where children accused of an offence could lodged, pending investigation and trial will be expedited by juvenile courts.
In Sheela Barse v. Secretary, Children Aid Society, the Supreme Court commented upon setting up dedicated juvenile courts and special juvenile court officials and the proper provision of care and protection of children in observation Homes.
In Vishal Jeet v Union of India, the Supreme Court issued appropriate directions on a PIL to state governments and Union Territories for eradicating the evil of child prostitution and for evolving programmes for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of the young fallen victims.
In M.C. Mehta v State of Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court pronounced upon the constitutional perspective of abolition of child labour and issued appropriate guidelines to the Government of India with respect to compulsory education, health, nutrition, etc of the child labourers.
In Sakshi v Union of India, the Supreme Court directed the government/ Law commission to conduct a study and submit a report on the means of curbing child abuse.
Prevention of juvenile delinquency
Prevention is necessary for such children. First of all, we should identify such juveniles and thereafter give him treatment. They will become habitual offender if they are not timely prevented from committing the offence. The most effective way to prevent juvenile delinquency has indisputably been to assist children and their families early on. Numerous state programmes attempt early intervention, and federal funding for community initiatives has allowed independent groups to tackle the problem in new ways. The most effective programs share the following key components. There are so many Jurists and criminologists who suggested many provisions for the prevention of juvenile delinquency. Some of the provisions are very useful for the welfare of the juveniles and their development.
Delinquency Prevention is the broad term for all efforts aimed at preventing youth from becoming involved in criminal, or other antisocial, activity. Increasingly, governments are recognizing the importance of allocating resources for the prevention of delinquency. Prevention services include activities such as substance abuse education and treatment, family counselling, youth mentoring, parenting education, educational support and youth sheltering.
All cultures and nations have managed juvenile wrongdoing and the issues that go with it; the issues are ten times more challenging to determine in developing nations. Exploitation of children has been a long-standing practice. These delinquents go through a lot of abuse which vary in nature as physical, sexual, or psychological or as a combination. The abuse has a long lasting and profound effect on a child’s life. The problem of child abuse is a serious one and it is unlikely that it gets solved any sooner. Also, the reason why this has prolonged is that the society has affected the children in a negative way and in the society there are factors such as family influence, social environment, mental disorder and sexual abuse. This leads to low self-influence, social environment, mental disorder and sexual abuse among young people. They develop low self-esteem and they go through mental trauma which later correlates with delinquent behaviour.
We cannot uproot this menace but there are solutions to control juvenile delinquency. In the best interest of the delinquent, he or she should be rehabilitated as early as possible and integrated back in the society. The State must also protect the rights of these children and come up with reformative methods and instill in them values that can socially uplift them and give them a new-found confidence so that they can play a constructive role in society.
The writer is an LL.M ( Criminal and Security Law) 2021-2022,
Manipal University, Jaipur, Rajasthan