Nelson Mandela said “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children.” Children are like clay; they can be molded in any shape and structure. To make the country’s future brighter, it is necessary that the upbringing of children is done correctly as they are one of the most valuable resources. However, seeing the increasing rate of cases of Juvenile Delinquency in India, it is obvious that the situation of India is not at all in order. Even after so many amendments in The Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, nothing much has improved. What’s the cause? The 2015 amendment which states that the children from 16-18 years of age committing crimes should be considered as “adults” and punished alike, leaves us in dilemma whether the punishment of 3 years is justified in case a heinous crime is committed by them. The next question arises is what if the offender is below 16 years? Which approach shall be better: a punitive one or a rehabilitative one?
Legislations dealing with juvenile offenders during pre- constitution era
The Apprentice Act, 1850 which stated that children (10-18 years) convicted will serve as apprentices for businessmen.
The Reformatory Act (1876 & 1897) which treated and helped in reformation of the offenders.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860
Section 82 states that a child below 7 years of age shall not be liable for any punishment (doli incapax).
Section 83 states that children above the age of 7 years and below 12 years shall be liable for punishment only if it is proved that the offender attained enough maturity to be aware of the consequences of the act he was committing (doli capax).
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1861 which states about the separate trial of offenders below 15 years and their confinement in reformatories.
After the post- Constitution period, The Central Children’s Act was introduced in the year 1960 but was not much efficient. Then came The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986. However, the act suffered from some drawbacks related to the protection and safety of the offenders. After various modifications in the previous act of 1986, The Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 came into force and was considered highly effective. It went through many amendments but the most significant one was the 2015 one.
The JJ (Amendment) Act, 2015 allowed the offenders belonging to the age group of 16-18 years within the ambit of the adult category and to be tried alike. The need to amend was felt when one of the convicts of Delhi Gang Rape Case (2012), Mohammad Afroz, was released on the contention that he was a juvenile (below 18). As a result of the amendment, he was imprisoned for 3 years.
Causes of rise in juvenile delinquency
Fault in the upbringing of the child
Violence within the family creates a bad impact
Lack of love and care from the parents
Lack of education
Negative uses of internet
Poor mental health
Restrictions imposed by parents
The only cause as to why the juvenile delinquencies are still at rise is mainly due to the lack of parental support or bad parenting. It is really important to give freedom but with restrictions in order to prevent the mind of a child from being diverted in the wrong direction.
Inadequacies in The JJ Act
The Act has no provision for those offenders who are below 16 years of age.
The punishment provided to the minor in case of petty offences is 3 years, in case of serious offences 7 years and in cases of heinous crimes like rape, terrorism, etc., 7 years or above.
The reality of the working of rehabilitative centers is far different from what we expect. In many cases, the juveniles are indulged in illegal practices like human trafficking (mostly girls), drug abuse, organ transplantation and many more. This leaves a negative impact on the physical and mental health of the children and makes the situation even worse.
The act is silent on the punishment to be provided for children below 16 years of age. Isn’t it a drawback? Let’s find out by throwing light on the cases of juvenile crimes in India.
A 14-year-old boy killing his own brother over a small amount of Rs. 40.
A 15-year-old boy attacking his own brother and mother over playing PUBG.
An 8-year-old boy pushing a toddler in a water tank seeking revenge.
13- and 14-years old boys committing rape.
A teen girl attacking her mother when told to study.
Isn’t it concerning that at an age where children have no sense of worldliness are becoming criminals?
2. Taking in consideration the Nirbhaya Rape Case, is it enough for a person who raped and brutally murdered a girl, to be punished with imprisonment for 3 years? Is it justified to give death sentences to the other convicts while the one who was mainly liable for the injuries suffered by the victim is alive and free?
The provision “less punishment to juveniles” is opposed by the majority of the people. It should not be acceptable in any way, be it legally or morally.
In Legal System
Age should never be considered a factor while punishing a criminal (especially not in case the offenders are above 12 years). However, in case of very young offenders, they should be sent to rehab centers along with a guardian.
At the same time, inspection of the rehabilitative centers should take place by proper trusted authorities.
The punishment of the juveniles (16-18 years) should be increased and the category below 16 and above 12 years should at least be punished with imprisonment or fine as per the nature of the crime. It should be kept in mind that both punitive as well as rehabilitative approaches should be considered depending on the crime committed.
The government and the authorities contributing in the functioning of the country are putting their best efforts by making amendments in the existing act as well as by introducing new legislations. Not only the legal system but also good parenting can play a key role in developing the personality of their children.
It is their duty to instill good values and morals in children as they are the future of the country. If the future will be like the present, then, India will not be able to progress and raise her head high among the nations.
This article is written by Himanshi of Chanderprabhu Jain College of Higher Studies and School of Law.