This article is authored by Sujata Porwal, third year BA LLB (Hons.) student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. The article aims to provide an understanding of the term Juvenile Delinquency and its current legal position in India. The article also suggests reformative measures to prevent juvenile delinquency.
What is Juvenile Delinquency?
The conduct of an anti-social or criminal activity by a child (below 18 years of age) that is in conflict with or in violation of any prevalent law of the nation shall be considered as ‘Juvenile Delinquency’. In other words, juvenile delinquency is an act that reflecting crime, if committed by an adult.
The Indian justice system believes that such children, termed as a ‘child in conflict with law’, needs special care in order to eradicate the roots of the crime that is budding in the mind of the child. It is common to observe juvenile offenders turning into uncompromising criminals if they do not receive adequate care.
The term juvenile finds its boundaries in sub-section (35) of Section 2 of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (hereafter referred to as ‘JJ Act’) whereas, the term delinquency attains its meaning from sub-section (45 & 54) of section 2 of the JJ Act.
It is believed that no child is born a criminal. Such behavior is often the result of surroundings in which a child is brought up or lack of proper education and parental attention. However, it is easier to restore a child from such criminal activities. In the words of Sir Fredrick Douglass, ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men’.
Moreover, the vital cause that leads children towards criminal or unlawful acts is habitually rooted in the neglect or abandonment that a child is forced to go through. It is therefore not justified to accuse the child of the act by subjecting him/her to harsh punishment. Thus, India has adopted a restorative justice mechanism to protect and reform the young minds that bend towards such activities.
What causes delinquency among children?
There can be several causes as to why a child falls prey to juvenile crimes. It can be fostered by a wide range of factors including social structure, financial conditions, social institutions, etc. Some major causes are discussed below:
- Rational choice
Several psychological theories and analysis suggest that a child might be attracted towards a delinquent act as a result of a rational choice. In other words, the child deliberately chooses to commit such an act. Such acts might be a source of satisfaction for the child that withholds their understanding of right and wrong.
- Social Disorganization
The Indian system of joint-families is losing its significance, due to the emerging trend of nuclear families, where both the parents cater to their proficiency by stepping out to work. Children belonging to such families feel neglected and abandoned. Quoting the words of the Great Noble laureate Gabriel Mistral, ‘We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the foundation of life’.
Such children have a higher tendency to incline towards juvenile delinquency.
- Outside influencers
The friends and the surroundings of a child have a huge impact on his/her habits, way of thinking and life in general. A minor indulgence with the wrong company can lead to major changes in a child’s life, directing him/her towards unethical actions.
Influence of the wrong people provides direct as well as indirect encouragement to the child to commit crimes. Besides, the neighborhood and environment at the child’s home also have a major impact on his/her behavior. Outside influence can also depend upon the child’s access to internet, television and social media.
One of the most deep-rooted problems of the recent times is labeling. We, as a society, have set standards and norms which every member is expected to follow. If we observe anything outside that box, we invite it with grave criticism. For example, a boy who cries is not manly enough.
Such labels push the child towards committing a wrongful act. Punishing someone for being their original self either guides that person towards depression or forces him to choose the path of revenge, both of which can be hazardous to a healthy society.
The Legal Angle
The JJ Act is the primary central legislation that deals with the matter of Juvenile Justice in the country. Erstwhile, each state had separate legislation to address juvenile justice.
The constitution of India also provides for certain provisions that tackle issues related to Juvenile Justice. These consist of:
- Article 15, clause (3)
- Article 39, clause (e) (f)
- Article 45
- Article 47
The government of India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 on 11th December 1992. The government also enacted a law titled Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 in lieu of the ratification to guarantee the right to survival, protection, development and participation to the child.
The failure of the above-mentioned Act led to the adoption of an amended version of the Act known as Juvenile Justice (Care and protection of children) Act, 2000. The act aimed at modifying the existing juvenile laws in the country and provide care and protection to the children in conflict with law by catering to their growth and development in a child-friendly method. The act strived to work in the best interest of the children.
However, a further renewed version of the act was made applicable in 2015, famously known as the JJ Act or the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
Preventing Juvenile Delinquency
Developing a strong system of preventive techniques will save the country from an increasing crime rate. Therefore, prevention of juvenile delinquency acquires great value in the Indian scenario. The foundation of prevention lays at the ground level of a family by assisting children from the very beginning. The primary step is to identify the children who are in dire need of help. If a child inhabits criminal tendencies at a young age, it is quite likely that he might turn into a habitual offender as an adult.
Juvenile delinquency can be handled through individual as well as environmental programs that assist a child towards positive attitude and change. While individual programs encompass counselling and psychotherapy, the environmental programs focus on improving the socio-economic situation that is likely to encourage delinquency.
Although, prevention of delinquency continues to remain a vast and unexpired term that bears the capacity to attain multiple meanings owing to the situation.
There has been a surge in the issues related to children in the recent years. This not only hampers the individual growth of a child, but also leads to turmoil in the whole society. The urgency to deal with the social, economic and other factors responsible for juvenile delinquency thus becomes imperative. Since the Juvenile Justice system is bent towards a restorative form of justice, attempts shall be made to ensure that a child is restored even before he commits the crime. In other words, if a hungry child is likely to commit theft, the bigger problem of poverty and hunger shall be dealt with rather than investing resources to restore the child through psychotherapy. Besides, child abuse, in its entirety, shall be eradicated from the society.
India is known for its rich heritage and culture that instills high morals and strong values in its citizens. The state shall take measures to ensure that this legacy is preserved and the children and enlightened and educated about ethical ways of living in order to uplift the society as a whole.
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
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