WHO IS A JUVENILE DELINQUENT?
A minor who cannot be controlled by parental authority and commits antisocial or criminal acts, as vandalism or violence. Or a child or youth characterized by juvenile delinquency.
Representative image ; Source - The New York Times
WHAT MAKE A JUVENILE DIFFERENT FROM A MINOR?
In general sense both the term has same meaning but however difference lies in context of implications in the eyes of law. Minor implies young and teen persons whereas juvenile either indicates immature person or young offenders.
Juvenile Delinquency means a crime committed by youth who is under the age of 18 years. Juvenile Justice is a legal framework which describes justice for juvenile under the Indian Legal System. The system is giving a special treatment and protection to juvenile delinquency. At present, there is a hike in rate of juvenile crimes and this increasing rate is creating a burning issue.
To resolve the issues around juvenile delinquency different laws have been passed over time and time again. The most recent one is - The Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015.
According to the Act, the maximum tenure of punishment which can be given to the juvenile offenders is three years and this punishment is valid for heinous crime also. In case of an adult offender, the maximum punishment which can be given is 7 years or life imprisonment or death penalty.
The Act, in case of juvenile offenders believe on Reformation of juvenile as much as possible. The reformation type of punishment under the Act includes: – Sending juvenile to Rehabilitation Centers or Juvenile Schools.
But, adoption of reformative theory of punishment by law, is giving an undue advantage to juvenile to perpetuate their ability to commit crime without facing any harsh consequences. Reformation is good but not always.
CHANGES BROUGHT IN JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT IN THE WAKE OF RECENT DEVELOPMENTS -
The frightful Nirbhaya Case of December 2012, in Delhi, brought the whole nation under shock and there was a dire need to change the then existing juvenile laws as one of the convicts of was a juvenile during the time of commission of the crime and he was considered to be the one with being most heinous with regard to the crime.
It was on December 2015, that the Rajya Sabha finally passed the juvenile justice bill.
The new law permits juveniles between the age of 16-18 years to be tried as adults if they are accused of committing an offence of heinous nature. That group of 16-18 years will be further examined by the juvenile justice board and this is done in order to know if the crime was committed by that person as an adult or a child.
RIGHTS PROVIDED TO THE YOUNG OFFENDERS
The Indian Constitution provides Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) - provided mainly to ensure the smooth functioning of the society. And regarding the rights and welfare of the children following has been provided by the constitution:
• Right to Free and compulsory education to all the children aged between 6 to 14 years of age – Article 21A.
• Right to be protected from any hazardous employment under the age of 14 years – Article 24.
• Right to be provided with proper Standard of living and Good Nutrition – Article 47.
• Right to be protected from Human Trafficking and Forced Labor – Article 39.
The lawmakers while drafting the Juvenile Act of 2015 have taken into consideration all the provisions and rights of children.
Also, Section 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) states that – "Any offence which is not punishable with death or imprisonment for life, which is committed by a person below the age of 16 years, may be tried by a court which is specially empowered under the children act to decide on such, matters. Or it can be dealt with by any other law for time being in force which is providing for treatment, training and rehabilitation of young offenders."
Section 437 of the CrPC lays down that "a child in conflict with law can apply for an Anticipatory Bail." The child in the conflict of law has all the rights to apply for anticipatory bail and there is no bar on this by any provisions of Juvenile Justice Act. The anticipatory Bail of a child in conflict with law is maintainable in the High Court or the Court of Sessions.
In addition, 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 “Child in conflict with law”.
There was a clear distinction made regarding the offences, meaning and the categories were set 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 offense is committed by them then after due examination 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 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) courts, courts dealing with Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), etc.
With the enactment of the 2015 Act, the scope of the definition of ‘Child in need of care & protection’ was enhanced to another level.
India had also made legal provisions that especially and specifically deals 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 child in conflict with law should be based on non-penal treatment through the communities based upon the social control agencies.
The major causes for Juvenile delinquency in India -
Economic instability and poverty, sexual indulgence, disintegration of Family, advent of modern lifestyles and frequent migration.
The increasing rates of juvenile crime in India is a burning issue and need to be focused upon. Although government has laid various legislation and rules to stop the incidents of juvenile crimes but the present laws on juveniles is not creating any impact on the juveniles and thus the results are not fruitful and legislative intent is not accomplishing. The Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015 is very much considerate but the goal is still to far.
Although the Juveniles are malefactors but there's still hope for reformation in them. And as quoted -
"Punishment is not for revenge, but to lessen crime and reform the criminal."