Juvenile Delinquency – Sociological and Legal Aspect
Juvenile means a child or a young person who is below the age of eighteen and is yet to attain adulthood. Section 2(35) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 defines a juvenile as a child below the age of eighteen years. Delinquency means behaviour or conduct, especially of a young person, which society does not accept. So, Juvenile delinquency in simple language means a child or a young person involved in an activity or behaviour that is not acceptable by society.
Juvenile delinquency basically means the commission of antisocial or criminal activity by a child ( below 16 years for boys and below 18 years for girls) which violates the law. It occurs when a minor violates a criminal statute. Section 82 of the IPC states that a child below the age of seven years is doli incapex-incapable of committing a crime. When a crime is committed by a juvenile then the procedures which take place differ from that of an adult offender. In all the states Juvenile court systems and Juvenile Detention Facilities are there which deal specifically with underage offenders. Delinquent behaviour by juveniles is something that should be dealt with as soon as possible because Juvenile Delinquency is a gateway to the adult criminal world because many adult criminals have had criminal backgrounds since they were juveniles.
The sociological view is well expressed by the definition given by Clyde B.Vedder who says, ‘juvenile delinquency refers to the anti-social acts of children and of young people under age. Such acts are either specifically forbidden by law or may be lawfully interpreted as constituting delinquency, or as requiring some form of official action. It means deviation from normal behaviour.
CAUSES OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY –
There are a lot of circumstances that develop criminal tendencies in Juvenile but they are not born criminals. The circumstances and environment inside as well as outside the house, family members’ behaviour, physical and mental conditions of the juvenile, play the most important in the development of delinquent behaviour in juveniles. In general bad company, mental instability, social media, poverty etc. are some of the reasons for Juvenile Delinquency. In India, Poverty and Social Media play an important role in making Juveniles commit crimes. The desire for money inclines them to commit delinquent acts.
SOCIAL FACTORS –
Poverty is the major cause of Juvenile Delinquency in India. Mostly Juvenile crimes are committed by children who are from poor family backgrounds. In poor households both the mother and father of the juvenile go to work to earn bread for the family meanwhile children are left on their own and there is no one to care for them or guide them. These children may fall under the influence of gangsters mostly unknowingly for want of money which leads to delinquency.
Slum neighbourhoods also sometimes encourage delinquent behaviour, as pressure to make a decent living is much higher for the people residing here. They also want the same good things that they see others enjoying but at times it is difficult to get them honestly due to lack of education or opportunity.
BROKEN HOMES –
A home may be broken up if one or both of the parents have died, have serious health issues, live far away for work, or are divorced. Juveniles living in broken homes are more vulnerable and helpless to anti-societal influences because they lack parental love, control and guidance. Many studies have pointed to the high incidence of structural breaks in the family backgrounds of delinquent youth.
BAD COMPANIONSHIP –
The neighbours, friends, companions and peer groups have a major impact on the behaviour of the child.
The child who gets in the good company of companions is likely to be a responsible citizen of the country but if they are part of a bad company or gang they are more prone to commit crimes and their companionship can become a reason for the delinquent acts committed by them. The behaviour of children is adapted from the company they are being with.
POOR SCHOOL ATTENDANCE –
One of the main causes of delinquency is poor school attendance. In addition to being a place for learning and development, school involves a schedule that gives kids something to work toward daily. The daily routine of waking up, getting ready, going to school, finishing the assigned task, and coming home create a foundation for future positive decisions. Children miss out on developing excellent habits when they are not encouraged to learn this kind of routine. Additionally, they have a lot of spare time, which they can use to “learn” about things that won’t improve their lives or their prospects. Failure to attend school instils in children a mindset that they are free to do whatever they want without complying with societal norms.
FLAWED RECREATION –
In the present time, kids use their phones, laptops, and iPads for entertainment. A child who has access to such technology runs the risk of developing into a juvenile offender. The pattern seen in juvenile crimes is inspired by social media and the internet where children watch stuff which they are not supposed to be watching.
PERSONAL FACTORS –
MENTAL INSTABILITY –
Juveniles who are not mentally stable are more involved in committing crimes as they cannot make a distinction between what is right and what is wrong. For the same reason, they can easily be used by gangsters or even an ordinary man for criminal purposes.
EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS –
Feelings of inferiority and jealousy are common in juvenile delinquents. When they are not treated properly by society their feeling of inferiority and jealousy is hyped up due to which they commit delinquent acts.
RATIONAL CHOICE –
A behavioural study done on delinquent children by psychologists suggests that there are instances when the child commits a delinquent act because his mind tells him to do so and he wants to do it for immense satisfaction so he finds nothing wrong in the commission of the act.
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY PREVENTION –
EDUCATION – Programs that educate and raise awareness, such as those that instruct parents on how to communicate with their kids, how their actions affect the kids, and how vital it is to interact with them, should be run. Additionally, social skills education for kids in schools is necessary. The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine.
PARENT-CHILD INTERACTION -Parenting techniques and appropriate parent-child interactions should be the subject of programmes. To adequately teach the child about behavioural concerns, parents and children should have wholesome conversations. For the parents, there should be programmes on how to react to their child’s behaviours.
PREVENT BULLYING – The majority of the time, bullying occurs on school grounds or close to a child’s home by other peer groups. The children’s mental health may be impacted by the bullying. Sometimes young people may harbour resentments and unintentionally commit crimes.
RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES –Children in recreational activities have more opportunities to interact with both adults and other kids. They might develop a good friendship that will benefit them later. The youngsters’ personalities and skills should be considered when designing these recreation programmes. The kids need access to extracurricular activities like music, dancing, sports, martial arts, painting, etc. to keep their minds stimulated and busy.
Legal provisions related to Juveniles –
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS –
ARTICLE 21(A) – to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine.
Article 24 – Right to be protected from any hazardous employment under the age of 14 years.
Article 15(3) – provides the state to make special laws for women and children.
ARTICLE 39(f) – was inserted in the Constitution of India by the 42nd Amendment Act, provides that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and they must be protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
Article 45- Requires the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 years.
INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860
Section 82 – it says “Nothing is an offence which is done by a child under seven years of age”. Under the age of 7 years, no infant can be guilty of a crime; for, under that age an infant is, by the presumption of law, doli incapax, and cannot be endowed with any discretion.
Section 83 – Act of a child above seven and under twelve of immature understanding.—Nothing is an offence which is done by a child above seven years of age and under twelve, who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge of the nature and consequences of his conduct on that occasion.
Article 14 and Reasonable Classification in Juveniles –
The Juvenile Justice Act,2015 provides intelligible differentia to protect the Right to Equality for children who belong to different age groups and , there is a classification for children who have committed petty offences, serious offences, heinous offences.The test of permissible classification requires two conditions to be fulfilled- 1. that the classification must be found on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others left out of the group. 2. that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statue in question.
BASIS OF CLASSIFICATION-
Children under the age group of 18 years may have different mental capabilities since the development of the brain takes place at different stages in different individuals, the severity of the crime committed can also differ thus indicating different levels of maturity. Thus, the children who have committed petty crimes such as pickpocketing should be differentiated from those who have committed heinous offences and thus the crimes are divided into three-
i. Petty Offences
ii. Serious Offences
iii. Heinous Offences
JUVENILE JUSTICE (CARE AND PROTECTION ) ACT 2015 –
Need for replacing the Juvenile Act 2000 with Juvenile Justice Act,2015 – After 2012, the Juvenile Act 2000 became a contentious subject because one of the six defendants in the Delhi gang rape case, Mukesh & Ors. V. the State of Delhi, was just a few months away from turning 18. He was involved in the Nirbhaya gang rape case in December 2012 when he was 17 and a half years old. He would have been at risk of death row like other accused if he had been six months older. On August 31, 2013, he was instead incarcerated for 3 years in a juvenile reformatory, and upon his release, he was assigned to a non-profit organisation. In July 2014, Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi announces that they were working on a new law which will allow 16-year-olds to be tried as an adult. She said that more than half of the juvenile crimes were committed by teens who know that they get away with it. Changes in law will definitely lead to stepping back their feet while doing something wrong. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection),2015 was passed on 7 May 2015 by the Lok Sabha amid intense protest by several members of Parliament. It was passed on 22 December 2015 by Rajya Sabha and got presidential assent on 31 December 2015. It came into force on January 15, 2016.
Major amendments introduced in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 : No matter the sort of offence committed, any child in dispute with the law may spend a maximum of three years in institutional care under the Juvenile Justice Act, of 2000. (special home, etc.) The juvenile cannot be tried as an adult and placed in an adult prison or receive any sentence longer than three years but under Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 any child who is 16-18 years old and commits a heinous offence may be tried as an adult. But for this, the Juvenile Justice Board shall conduct a preliminary assessment to assess the child’s mental and physical capacity, ability to understand the consequences of the offence and the circumstances in which the alleged offence has taken place. Then based on his assessment, the Board shall determine whether the child is fit to be tried as a child or whether there is a need for a trial of the said child as an adult by the Children’s Court having jurisdiction to try such offences.
GOAL OF THE ACT – The Act’s goal is to decide matters involving Juveniles or children while keeping “the best interest of the children and their rehabilitation” in mind.
JUVENILE JUSTICE BOARD (u/s 4-9 of Juvenile Justice Act,2015) is established in each district to exercise its authority and carry out its duties with regard to Juveniles and children who have violated the law. To determine whether a juvenile offender should be sent for rehabilitation or tried as an adult, the Juvenile Justice Board will first undertake an investigation.
CHILD WELFARE COMMITTEE (u/s 27-30 of Juvenile Justice Act,2015), deal with those children who are ‘in need of care and protection i.e. children from deprived and marginalized sections of society as well as those with different needs and vulnerabilities and aims at determining institutional care for children in need of care and protection and their rehabilitation, reintegration, and restoration.
CASE LAWS –
Shilpa Mittal v. State(NCT of Delhi)
The first instance of an accused person being tried as an adult since the New Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 came in July 2016. While operating his father’s Mercedes, the alleged 17 years, 11 month old ran over a 32-year-old marketing executive. Heinous offences are only those that call for a minimum penalty of seven years or longer. Offences not providing a minimum sentence of 7 years, held, cannot be treated as heinous offences.
Bodhisattwa Gautam v. Subhra Chakraborty
Rape was deemed to violate the right to life protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Fundamental rights are superior to any other right guaranteed by any statute. Thus, making the blanket immunity to the juveniles as being ultra vires the Constitution.
Saurabh Jalinder Nangre v. the State of Maharashtra-
A juvenile cannot be transferred to Children’s Court if the crime committed is not a heinous offence under Juvenile Justice Act
Jhabua Murder Case –
Two minors, aged 16 and 17, were sentenced to life imprisonment. Over a dispute of about 800 rupees, the accused persons fatally stabbed the deceased (a teenager) to death.
Juvenile Delinquency and rising rates of crime committed by Juveniles is a big problem that needs to be solved. The government has passed laws that deal with the issue of Juvenile Delinquency but these laws do nothing when it comes to reforming the youth of the country. Government should have a reformative approach to this issue. Reducing the age of juvenile delinquents from 18 to 16 years is not the solution but the solution is to pay heed to the main causes of juvenile delinquency which we discussed above. The most significant cause is the lack of education, government should provide free and compulsory education to all children as provided by Article 21(a). The main task is to make the youth understand how their actions can determine the future of the country and make them aware of their importance so that they deter from committing crimes and start making contributions to society in a positive way. Lesser poverty and more education should be the aim of the government in reducing the number of juvenile delinquents in society.
Author: Sarthak Awasthi,
Student at Bharati Vidyapeeth,New Law College,Pune.