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Children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow, "said Jawaharlal Nehru.

Children are the foundation of a nation. These children are developed at different rates and have different world views. This is the age when peer influence and acceptance become very important. However, these are normal occurrences in a child's life without any deviance. Problems arise when juveniles become deviated and get involved in delinquent activities that are in conflict with the law.

In the last few decades, there has been an increase in crime committed by children in the age group of 15–16. Psychoanalytic theories of delinquency hold that deviant behavior in youths is the result of unresolved instincts and drives within the human psyche. When these are in conflict, delinquent or deviant behavior may result.

On their lists, a delinquent is someone whose "attitude towards society is such that it will eventually lead to a violation of the law."Modern researchers reject the thought that delinquency is inherited. It is the environment that is responsible, not the heredity of the delinquent. The psychology behind the commission of crime is economic deprivation, upbringing, backwardness, masculinity, broken homes, poverty, lack of education, etc. The concept of prevention and the efforts to prevent such delinquent acts require the identification of causes and risks associated with the offenses, addressing them, and then forming the protective factors to counterbalance the risks. The juvenile justice system is designed to keep them from engaging in delinquent behavior that is against the law.


Juvenile is developed from the Latin word 'iuvenalis', meaning 'of/belonging to youth’.

Delinquency is derived from "delinquentia", which means "a fault or a crime". Delinquency means conduct that doesn't conform to the legal or moral aspects of society. Violation of the law by a person who is under the age of 18, i.e., not an adult, is called juvenile delinquency. As a consequence of this juvenile delinquency, the concept of juvenile justice was introduced and, at present, it is an important part of criminology. Juvenile justice defines justice for juveniles under the Indian system. The system provides special treatment and protection to juvenile delinquents.


Historically, the concept of the juvenile justice system was derived from the historical evidence that juvenile delinquency occurs in both simple and complex societies, wherever the group of individuals involved in maladjustment and conflicts affects the human relationship.

The history of the juvenile justice system is divided into 3 time periods:

1. Pre-1850 2. 1850-1949 3.1950-2013

Pre-1850 -

Despite the fact that the Hindu and Muslim religions devised a complex system, there were no specific guidelines or laws explaining how to deal with children who may break the law. Respective families of the individuals concerned were held accountable for monitoring the actions of their children.

Before the 18th century, all laws applied were equal for both adults and juvenile offenders. They were sentenced to institutions and housed in prisons. After the increase in the complexity of societies, there was an inflation in juvenile delinquency. After the advent of the British in India, the need for new legislation for children was felt.


In chronological order, The Apprentice Act, 1850, was the first English law which separated offenders by age and introduced the concept of rehabilitation. If a child between the ages of 10 and 18 is found to be involved in criminal activity, they will be placed in a trade apprenticeship. In 1860, the IPC came into existence, which provided provisions for underage criminals. According to S.82 of the IPC, an act done by a child below the age of 7 years is not an offense. It considers a child below 7 years as' doli incapax ', which means that a child below 7 years doesn't have the capacity to commit a crime knowingly.

Children aged 10 to 18 who are convicted of crimes should be provided with vocational training as a part of their rehabilitation process.

This act was followed by the Reformatory Schools Act, 1897. This act led to the separation of children and adults and authorized the courts to order children up to the age of 15 years sentenced to imprisonment to be sent to reform cells.

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, authorized magistrates to send juvenile offenders to reformatories rather than prison, along with providing provisions relating to the granting of probation and trial of children by juvenile court.


In 1960, the first Children's Act of 1960 was passed by Free India. The objectives of this act were to provide delinquent children with care, protection, maintenance, welfare, training, education, and rehabilitation, and to provide for the trial of delinquent children in the Union Territories. Even though this act made significant improvements in some states, it lacked uniformity in definitions and laws across different states, which created disparity in the treatment of juveniles. The Supreme Court said that this act enacted by parliament not only contains provisions regarding the investigation and trial of offenders but also includes mandatory provisions to ensure the social, economic, and psychological rehabilitation of children who are liable for offenses and are abandoned.

To address the issues raised by the Children's Act of 1960, the first juvenile justice act of 1986 was enacted. This act introduced the provisions for care, protection, treatment, development, and rehabilitation of delinquent juveniles in situations of abuse, exploitation, and social maladjustment and also introduced a uniform legal framework for children all over India. This act made neglected and delinquent children all over the country a matter of concern at a national level and attempted to reduce stigma by replacing the word "juvenile" with "child" and modifying the definition of neglected delinquent.

It looked into adjudication of juveniles and established juvenile courts for offenders and juvenile welfare boards for children who are not offenders or have been neglected.

The Indian Juvenile Justice Policy is based on the Constitutional Articles 15 (3), 21, 24, 39 (e) and (f), 45 and 47 of the Constitution, plus various international covenants, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as well as the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Juvenile Justice Administration (Beijing Rules). On November 20, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which includes provisions to protect the rights of juvenile offenders. The convention also protects juveniles' social integration by stating that no judicial actions or court trials will be held against them. This convention compelled the Indian Parliament to repeal the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 and replace it with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000, which is more reformed and significantly better.

In 2000, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act was passed. It established a consistent legal framework of justice throughout the country. The main goal of the new Act was to ensure that no child (under the age of 18) offender was imprisoned. One of the key goals of JJA, 2000 is to create a distinction between the two classes of children—those in opposition to the law and those requiring protective care from the state. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act of 2000 specifies that a juvenile offender may be housed in an "Observation Home." Children in need of care and protection, on the other hand, must be housed in a "Children's Home" while their cases are heard by the appropriate authorities. The main goal of this act was to rehabilitate the child and integrate him or her into mainstream society.

Any crime committed by a juvenile in India is governed by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. According to Section 15(1)(g) of the Juvenile Justice Act, a juvenile convicted of any offense can be sentenced to a special home for a maximum of three years before being released on probation. However, it has recently emerged as a threat to society. It is being used as an excuse to keep a person from being punished for a crime they committed. The major disadvantage of the juvenile justice act of 2000 was demonstrated in the Nirbhaya Rape Case of 2012, where one of the accused who brutalized a young girl was a 17-year-old minor.

According to the reports, the minor was the one who first lured the unsuspecting victims into the bus and was the most aggressive in the victim's repeated rape, so the main issue that the court had to deal with in the following case was that the main accuser was a juvenile, and under Section 15(1)(g), the maximum sentence was three years, or 1095 days, in a special rehabilitation home.

The involvement of the accused in such a heinous crime of rape compelled Indian Legislation to introduce a new law, and thus, Indian Parliament passed a new law known as " Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection), 2015."


Despite strong opposition and condemnation from various segments of society, the government passed the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, which prohibits children aged 16-18 from being tried as adults if they commit heinous crimes.

Definition of child under act

According to sub-section 12 of Section 2 of the Juvenile (Care and Protection) Act, 2015, "child" means a person who has not completed eighteen years of age. The Act classifies the term "child" into two categories: –

1. "child in conflict with the law"[1]; and

2. "A child in need of care and protection"[2]

The difference between a juvenile and a child:

A child is a person who is younger than 18 and may be in conflict with the law and who requires care and security, while a juvenile is a person under the age of 18 who faces legitimate procedures in the case of an offense or wrongdoing.

Salient features of Juvenile Justice Act 2015 :

1. S.2(12) of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 defines the term "child" as a person who has not completed 18 years of age. The act classified children into two categories: "children in conflict with the law" and "children in need of care and protection".

2. It categorizes the types of offenses depending upon how they are committed—petty, serious, and heinous offenses.

3. If a juvenile between the ages of 16 and 18 commits a crime, they can be tried as adults after a thorough examination of their mental capacity.

4. The establishment of juvenile courts for the sole purpose of dealing with juvenile offenses.

Present Juvenile System in India:

India has enacted legislation that protects the rights, interests, and safety of juvenile offenders.

This is an attempt to address the issues associated with juvenile delinquency. The three pillars of India's juvenile justice system are as follows:

  1. Young offenders should not be prosecuted in court; instead, they should be given the best possible rehabilitation.

  2. Instead of being punished by the courts, they should be offered reformative reforms.

  3. A child in violation of the law should receive non-punitive care while on trial [3], based on the community’s social control agencies, such as Observation Homes [4]and Special homes[5]

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Amendment Act 2021

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Amendment Act ,2021 was recently passed by parliament in order to strengthen the provision of child protection and adoption. There are numerous adoption cases pending before the court, and the power has now been transferred to the district magistrate in order to speed up the court's proceedings. Previously, the adoption of the child was finalized by a civil court adoption order. The amendment states that the district magistrate has the authority to issue such adoption orders.

Juvenile Justice Board:

According to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015,

  1. There shall be a constitution of a board for the purpose of inquiry and hearing in the matters of juveniles in conflict with the law.[6]

  2. The Board shall consist of the principal magistrate and two social workers, among whom one should be a woman.[7]

  3. The Act provides that under no circumstances can the Board regulate and operate from regular court premises. The decision of the Principal Magistrate is final.[8]

Claim of Juvenility:

The "claim of juvenility," which refers to deciding who can be deemed a juvenile, is the most controversial topic in the legal community. In India, the Juvenile Justice Board must rule on a claim of juvenility in accordance with Rule 12 of the Juvenile Justice Rules, 2007.

The board must decide the juvenility claim before the court proceedings begin. However, the claim may be raised at any time, even after the case has been decided.

Case laws regarding Claim of Juvenility in India:

  1. In the case of Kulai Ibrahim v. State of Coimbatore [9], it was observed by the Court that the accused has the right to raise the question of juvenility at any point of time during trial or even after the disposal of the case under Section 9 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

  2. In the case of Deoki Nandan Dayma v. State of Uttar Pradesh[10] , the court held that an entry in the register of school mentioning the date of birth of a student is admissible evidence in determining the age of a juvenile or to show whether the accused is a juvenile or child.

Juvenile Delinquency Causes

1. Social Factors

a. Broken House - If one or both parents die, one or both parents suffer from serious health problems, one or both parents live away for work reasons, or both parents divorce, the house can be broken.

b. Poverty- When parents or guardians fail to fulfill the needs of the child, and at the same time, children want their desires to be fulfilled by parents anyhow, and when their desires are met, they start themselves indulging in stealing money from homes or any other parents. This habitual tendency to steal results in theft on a large scale.

2. Personal Factors

a. Instability of the mind - Children with mental disabilities are unable to distinguish between right and wrong. Such children become vulnerable and are frequently used for criminal purposes by gangsters.

b. Emotional Issues- Children become criminals when they believe society is against them, when they are not treated fairly, and when they are denied basic rights. Such inferiority results in delinquency.


  1. Education and Awareness program : Education and awareness programmes for parents, such as those on how to interact with their children, how their behavior affects the children, and how important interaction with their children should be conducted, are examples of such programmes. Furthermore, children must be properly educated in schools about social behaviors.

  2. Recreation: Recreation programmes provide opportunities for children to interact with other children and adults.

They may form a positive friendship that will benefit them in the future. These recreation programmes should be customized to the children's personalities and abilities


The increase in youth crime rates in India is a matter of worry. States recognise that children who commit crimes differ from adults in two ways: they are less blameworthy as a group and have a greater capacity for transformation. In response to these differences, states have established a separate judicial system for juveniles as well as a separate criminal justice system. With some exceptions, most children and young people in conflict with the law have committed minor offenses. Current laws have failed to inculcate fear in the minds of juveniles, resulting in ineffective results. Furthermore, the concept of heinous crimes should be reconsidered. Simply imposing a time limit on punishment does not reflect the criminal's thoughts or convey the victim's grief. Although the government is making efforts to reduce juvenile crime by enacting various laws, these are insufficient.

-- [1] S.2(13) of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,2015 [2] S.2(14) of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,2015 [3] S.2(13) , Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 [4] S.47, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 [5] S.48 , Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 [6] S. 4 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 [7] S.4 (2) of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 [8] S.5 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 [9] Kulai Ibrahim v. State, (2014) 12 SCC 332 [10] Deoki Nandan Dayma v. State of U.P., (1997) 10 SCC 525

This article is written by Jagrati Pant of Law College Dehradun , Uttaranchal University.

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