Originating from the Latin word “Juvenis” meaning “Young”, the term juvenile signifies a person who has not completed the age of 18 years. Access to justice and the rule of law play a major role in deciding a country’s progress. Prosecution of children on the basis of those legislations that apply to adults will make them vulnerable to exploitation and will diminish any hope of rehabilitation as they will be subjected to hardcore punishments. As a result of this observation, the legislators felt the need of an advanced justice system for a particular age group leading to the formation of ‘Juvenile Justice System’. The principal goal of this justice system is to preserve and secure all the children who are in conflict with the law and get them within the domain.
With the increase in the number of cases in which the juveniles turned out to be the prime accused, a legislation was needed to ensure proper protection and rehabilitation of children. In order to define the regulations for governing juveniles who are subject to legal proceedings, the Parliament enacted the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986. The juvenile justice system is a system which comes within the purview of the Criminal law administration of justice. This system has come into force for considering those persons who are not yet old enough to be made responsible for a particular criminal act. The phrase “juvenile justice” is used in a very narrow sense to refer to the reformation, adjudication and rehabilitation, subsequent to the commission of the offence by a child. In its broader sense, it includes the preventive measures prior to the emergence of delinquency. In India, the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 envelopes the broader field of prevention of delinquency by bringing children in need of care and protection within its scope as well as making provision for dealing with the children who are found or alleged to have committed the offence.
Meaning of Juvenile and Juvenile Delinquency
Juvenile is a term which is used for a person who has not completed a certain age as prescribed by law. In India, prior to the sanction of the Children Act, 1950, there was no appropriate definition of the word ‘Juvenile’ and the age limit to decide whether a person falls under the category of juvenile was also not fixed. With different states defining different age limits for the category of juvenile, in conjunction with the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Government of India passed the Juvenile Justice Act in 1986 to have bona fide law defining the Juvenile Justice mechanism. In the Juvenile Justice Act, a boy below the age of 16 years and a girl below the age of 18 years were designated as juvenile.
The expression “Juvenile Delinquency” is being consistently used in the modern times to describe the issue of adolescent wrongdoings. The notion of juvenile delinquency is a consequence of social, moral, political and economic changes. Considering the importance of age as a factor in penal code offences, the concept of juvenile delinquency plays an important role in the development of the criminological and sociological theories. The level of biological maturity together with the state of mind of an accused helps in the construction of the sequence of offences. Thus, the aim behind the idea of ‘Juvenile Delinquency’ was to disassociate the wrongdoings of a minor with the severe connotation of the word ‘criminality’.
Theories of Juvenile Delinquency
1. Biogenic Theory-
The theory relates the commission of an offence primarily with the biological and psychological changes that occur in a person’s body. By differentiating between a criminal and an ordinary human being, this theory attempts to regard a criminal as a biological happening. It strongly believes that the criminal behaviour of a person originates from the unsoundness of mind or by the mental deficiency.
2. Psychogenic Theory-
This theory regards psychological factors as the main cause behind the transformation of a human being into a criminal. The impact that a society creates on the mind of an individual is of such an extreme level that it is not possible for him to avoid criminality and accept the social environment.
3. Sociogenic Theory-
Based on the social composition of a criminal, this theory regards environmental and societal changes as the root cause of the criminal intent prevalent in an individual.
4. Psychoanalytical and Psychiatric Theory
This theory says that delinquency is a result of factors that are prevalent in the environment which affects a child’s mind in such a way as to give birth to the criminal intent.
5. Medico-Biology Theory
This theory regards hereditary factors and physical illness as the root cause behind the commission of crime by a child. The chemical imbalances that take place inside an organism’s body have an effect of causing the person to loose the ability to think properly and form a correct judgement.
Preventive Measures of Juvenile Delinquency
This method aims to prevent juvenile delinquency by eradicating the negativity and the mental conflict prevalent in a child’s mind so as to make him form a correct judgement with respect to his actions.
Parents as educators-
The most important aspect in the prevention of crime by juvenile is the education given my parents to their children. The lessons taught by parents through their experiences help the child in having a positive perspective and it will serve as a guiding factor in the actions they take.
For the prevention of delinquency, recreational programmes play an important role as in such programmes, an attempt is being made to develop a healthy relationship between children and adults in a community. These programmes help in the creation of mindset of children towards the society they live in.
Such programmes are conducted by psychological and psychiatric experts with the aim of assisting the juvenile delinquents in overcoming their personality issues and other types of mental disorders or deficiencies.
Legislations Relating to Juvenile Delinquencies
Juvenile Justice Act, 1986
The Act was enacted with the objective of maintaining the best interest of children. The two terms ‘children’ and ‘juvenile’ have their own set of perspectives and presumptions. The word juvenile signifies a child who is accused of an offence by default. The laws that were in force in 1920-1986 used the word child, however, with the enactment of Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 the word child was replaced with ‘Juvenile’. Incorporating various policies contains in National Policy Resolution for Children 1974, United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child 1959 and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules) 1985, this Act aimed to provide a comprehensive law for juveniles.
The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 has eradicated the custody of juveniles in prison or in police lock-up. In an attempt to provide support to the delinquent juveniles, this legislation has emphasised two significant authorities, they are, Juvenile Welfare Board and a Juvenile Court. The prime objective of this legislation was to enforce various approaches, in order to defend and secure the persons who come under the heading of juveniles from penalisation, criminalisation and stigmatisation. With the enforcement of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 the ‘welfare’ approach bridged the road to the ‘justice’.
However, in the course of the execution of this act there were many flaws which were acknowledged such as, the ascertainment of the age of the person to be deemed as a juvenile, proceedings of the legal suit, distinct trials, reports submitted by the probation officer, support, assistance and rehabilitation of the juveniles, providing of information of the charges to the guardians. In most of the government run organizations and institutions, the juveniles were not provided relevant information as to their time period of stay or the reason for their visit. It was also noticed that the rules designed by the respective states and union territories for the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act were not in obedience with the fundamental structures of the Juvenile Welfare Boards, Observation homes, Aftercare homes and the Juvenile Courts. There were barely any important steps undertaken for the maintenance of the required degree for institutional care, such as adoption, foster care, sponsorship, etc.
Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2000
The Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2000 was enacted with the object of taking into account the recent developments and reform the law on juveniles. The Act stated its purpose as “to consolidate and amend the law relating to juveniles in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection, by providing for proper care, protection and treatment by catering to their development needs, and by adopting a child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposition of matters in the best interest of children and for their ultimate rehabilitation and matters connected in addition to that or incidental thereto.”
As stated in the purpose, the act aims to provide necessary care and protection to children regarding them as being in conflict with law and aims to adopt a child-friendly approach. Clearly, the act serves the purpose of differentiating an adult criminal with a juvenile and aims to rehabilitate children. Defining a juvenile as a person who has not accomplished the age of 18 years, the Act provides a uniform meaning of juvenile all over the country. Establishing the Juvenile Justice Board for those who are in dispute with law and a Child Welfare Committee for those who need supervision and support, the legislation has made every possible effort for showing the right path to the younger population of the country.
NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Established with the aim of preserving and promoting human rights, National Human Rights Commission is an independent organization that the responsibility of caring and protecting rights of juveniles in case they are in conflict with the legal system. Its aim is to supervise the complaints registered against juveniles and is responsible for monitoring the policies and legislations that are enacted. Its goal is to create a safe environment for children who are accused of any offence, provide them with appropriate treatment so that their future is secure and prevent them from exploitation.
The legislations on Juvenile Justice Mechanism in India have progressed fairly. Though the existence of gaps and loopholes are still a matter of concern, but those eventually get corrected by the enforcement of effective rehabilitation and reformatory institutions for the persons who come under the heading of juveniles. For the proper implementation of the necessary measures provided by the Act, it is of immense importance that the governments at Central, State and District level take effective control and make a clear path. There is a strong need for initiatives taken up by various activists and groups so that the transformation process of juvenile offenders is carried on at a rapid pace and a change is brought on a greater perspective. Several serious initiatives should be taken up by the government to enhance the nature of the crime and should be emancipated through this act for the benefit of society and the country as a whole. It seems immensely unreasonable to inflict a similar kind of punishment to the juveniles who are in dispute with the legal system, irrespective the nature and severity of the crime committed by them. As the deterrent effect is absent, it is resulting in the creation of an alarming situation which is to be given the almost attention to the earliest. The preventive measures mentioned in this paper with regards to the curding of the offences by the juvenile must need special attention and effective implantation of the same. With the present rate of crimes committed by the juveniles, it is a very much need and expectation in the forthcoming years to curb and prevent the commission of the crime in its initial stages itself, with this will is a possibility of a crime-free and a healthy society.
1. Juvenile Justice Act, 2000
By Mridul Bansal