INTRODUCTIONThe word JUVENILE originates from the Latin word ‘juvenis’, which means young. The definition of juvenile is provided under section 2(k) of The Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2000. Which states that juvenile or child means a person who has not completed eighteenth years of age.
Juvenile Delinquency, aka “Juvenile Offending”, is the act of participation in unlawful behaviour of a minor or individual younger than the statutory age of majority of the place.
A juvenile delinquent is a person who is typically below 18 years of age (minor) and commits an act that otherwise would have been charged as a crime if done by an adult. Juvenile crimes can range from small offenses (such as substance abuse), to violent crimes.
Juvenile detention centres and juvenile justice courts are basic structures of the juvenile legal system. Juvenile courts addresses offenses of minors as civil rather than criminal cases in most of the instances. But, depending on the type and severity of the offense, it is possible that the ‘offender’ under 18 is charged and treated as an adult.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND JUVENILITYJuvenile Justice is the legal framework which provides justice for juvenile. The system provides special treatment and protection to juvenile delinquents. As discussed above Juvenile Delinquency means crime committed by youth (under the age of 18 years).
The Juvenile Justice ( Care and Protection) Act, 2015, amended the pre-existing legislation of 2000 and included that any child between the age of 13 to 18 if committed any heinous crime , will be tried as an adult. The act also categorized the offences as – Petty offences (crime for which maximum punishment is up to 3 years), Serious offence (crime for which punishment is between 3 to 7 years), Heinous offence (crime for which punishment is 7 years or more).
The debatable issue here is determination of age. Age determination is paramount factor to determine the maturity level of the accused in India. The question here arises whether the juvenile can be tried as an adult or not?
The act answer to this question that – a juvenile offender who comes under the definition of “child in conflict with law” shall be tried as an adult and shall sent to Child Care Centre or Rehabilitation Centre (till the offender attains the age of 21 years and then they may be shifted to the jail or prison for the rest of sentence).
The JJ A, 2015 mandates setting up of Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district for well implementation of the laws.
FAQs about JUVENILE ARREST and JUVENILE JUSTICE
Q – Can a child be arrested in the first place?
A – Yes, the police can arrest children if they have committed a crime. Police stations, typically have a child welfare protection officer (Section 107 of JJ Act 2015) in each district and city, and at least one special juvenile police unit. In case the police arrest a child on suspicion of committing a crime, this must be done by a Special Juvenile Police Unit. If a regular police officer arrests the child, then the child must be immediately placed under the care of the Juvenile Police Unit, or the designated Child Welfare Officer (Section 10 of JJ Act 2015 ).
The police can also arrest children who have run away from an institution [Observation Home (Section 47) , Special Home or Place of Safety (Section 49)] where they were kept under the JJ Act (Section 26).
Q – What about the detention ?
A – Although arrests of children are allowed, the Magistrate cannot order a similar detention as adults to children. (Section 22 of JJ Act 2015).
Q – What are the responsibilities of the police when they arrest a child?
A – The police cannot use handcuff or exert any force when they arrest a child (acc. To Rule 8(3)(ii), Model Rules).
The police officer must, immediately, inform the parents or guardians of the child.
If they do not release the child on bail, then the officer must tell them the location of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) where the child will be produced (Section 13).
The Probation officer (if there is one), is also required to prepare a ‘Social Investigation Report’ to submit it to the JJB. Containing details that would be helpful for the JJB to make its decisions, such as family background, etc. (Section 13).
Q – Can the police keep the child in jail?
A – A child can never be kept/placed in a police lockup or regular jail. The police must bring the child before the JJB within 24 hours (Section 10). If the police does not release the accused immediately on bail, arrested child can only be kept in an Observation Home (Section 12) until taken to the JJB.
The police also needs to inform a child welfare officer who will accompany the child to the JJB for the hearing (Rule 8(2)(iii), Model Rules).
Q – How does the JJB decide when to detain the child?
A – The JJB has the power to detain the child (Section 12), though, there is an exception i.e. bail. If the JJB decides to allow for release on bail, parents or guardians are supposed to submit an undertaking in Form 2 (Model Rules).
The JJB may decide to deny bail if it is against the interest of the young offender. For instance, if this would expose you to ill-moral, physical or psychological danger (Section 12).
Q – So if not jail, then where are the Delinquents are kept?
A – While the inquiry is going on, the child can only be detained in Observation Homes or a Place of Safety.
The JJB later informs the offender how long they will be detained in the order (Section 12).
Q – How does a Children’s Court work?
A – The Children’s Court may decide that the child must be treated like an adult (depending on certain factors) for the trial, and conduct regular trials and pass final judgment.
The Children’s Court can generally pass the maximum sentence of 3 years (or more) for a Heinous Offence, it cannot award the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Or the children’s court may decide that there is no need to conduct trials as an adult, and may conduct an inquiry, passing orders under Section 18 of JJ Act, 2015.
In all proceedings, the Children’s Court must ensure a child-friendly atmosphere. It must ensure that the child is kept in a Place of Safety if detained during proceedings. If the child is found guilty of committing the Heinous Offence, they will be sent to the Place of Safety until she becomes 21 years old, after which they can be sent to jail for the rest of sentence (Section 20).
Also, the child should must access to reformative services (like education, skill development) when kept at the Place of Safety.
CONCLUSIONThe increasing rates of juvenile crime is a burning issue and needs immediate attention. Although government has laid down legislation and rules to stop the incidents of juvenile crimes; the classification of offenses and punishments according to it, the sensible and child-friendly approach makes the JJ Act a good law, but in the present scenario it lacks a deterrent effect and hence the results are not fructiferous.
Also the Observation Homes are not well equipped, they lack effective educational classes or skill development programmes, thus they fail to suffice the intent of juvenile justice entirely.
Apart from a good law , a strong implementation in social system is in dire need.
Read more about Juvenile Delinquents and their rights here –