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This article is written by Abhinav Anand, a student pursuing B.A. LL.B(Hons.) from DSNLU, Visakhapatnam. This article deals with the problem of crime committed by juveniles and suggests changes in the existing legislation to curb the juvenile delinquency in India.

Introduction

The crimes committed by the juvenile have been tackled by enacted legislation such as Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. The crime committed by juveniles has increased in the recent past. The reports of various organizations suggest that juveniles are involved in some heinous offences. The reformative punishment given to juveniles has not created deterrence. Juvenile delinquency is a serious issue that should be dealt on the priority basis. The juveniles are the one who will represent our society in the future. If they commit unsocial activities it will be a serious problem for society at large.

The problem of crimes committed by children

According to the recent NCRB data, over 40,000 crimes were committed by juveniles in 2019, 72% of the juveniles are between the age group of 16 to 18. To tackle the problem of this increase in crime by juveniles at an alarming rate, the Parliament has enacted the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 wherein the juvenile will be treated at par with the adult if they are accused of committing heinous offences. The restriction imposed by the act is that court cannot award the death penalty to the juveniles. The Indian courts while punishing the juvenile observes that if there are two meanings of the Act then the constructive meaning will be considered.

Reasons for a child to commit a crime

These are the following reasons because of which a child commit the crimes:

  1. Peer Pressure- Peer Pressure refers to doing something because a person in the social group or the person in the company of the children forces him to do the untoward act. It is the effect of the bad company. The children after reaching the adolescent age develop their own liking. They develop their own perspective of the society and the activities of people in society. The behaviour of the adolescent age is aggressive and dominating, it drags the adolescent to commit the crime.
  2. Lack of Education- Education has the power to enable one to make a living. When children don’t get an education, then they begin making their living through Illegal activities and fall into bad company. The lack of education is also a reason for the crime by children. The children who are not taught about legal and moral ethics from the beginning are prone to commit crimes. Education plays a pivotal role in the upbringing of the child. 
  3. Substance Abuse- Substance Abuse is an important factor leading the children to commit a crime. The excess use of drugs makes the children mentally weak and stops their constructive thinking. The drug addicts are prone to committing a crime.
  4. Lack of Sexual Education- Sexual offences are committed by the adolescent because they are not taught abouttsexuall education in their schools. The sexual awareness will make the adolescent well versed with the hormonal changes their body went through during that time.
  5. Negligent Parents- The parents play a crucial role in the upbringing of the child. If they turned callous about the activities and behaviour of their children then it affects the personality and thinking of their children.

Punishments given to the child

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 provides for the punishment awarded to the juvenile, if found guilty of offences, irrespective of their age.

Section 18(1) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 Act provides that when the Board finds the child guilty of petty, serious or heinous offences then it can take the following action after looking into the social investigation report of the child.

  1. Allow the child to go home after appropriate and proper advice and admonition followed by the proper counselling of the child or the parents.
  2. Direct the child to participate in group counselling and similar activities.
  3. Order the child to do community service under a specified organisation or person, or group of persons specified by the Board.
  4. Order the child or parents or guardian to pay the fine.

Provided that if the child is working, any provision of labour law is not violated for the time being in force.

  1. Direct the release of the child on probation and good conduct and placed under the care of any parent, guardian or fit person, or such fit person, parents,guardian,or fit person executing a bond, with or without surety,as the Board may require, for the good behaviour and child’s well being for any period not exceeding three years.
  2. Direct the child to be released on probation of good conduct and placed under the care and supervision of any facility for ensuring the good behaviour of the child and his well being for any period not exceeding three years.
  3. Direct the child to be sent to a special home, for such period, not exceeding three years, as the Board thinks fit, for providing reformative services including education, skill development, counselling, behaviour modification therapy and psychiatric support during the stay in the special home.

Section 18(2) provides that if an order is passed under clauses (a) to (g) of subsection(1), the board may in addition pass orders to:

  1. Attend schools,
  2. Attend vocational training,
  3. Attend a therapeutic measure,
  4. Prohibit the child from visiting, frequenting or appearing at a specified place.

Section 18(3) provides for the preliminary assessment under Section 15 to pass an order that there is need for a trial of the said child as an adult, then the Court may order the transfer of the trial cases to the children’s Court having jurisdictions to try such offences.

In the case of Ram Prasad Sahu vs. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court held that the juvenile offender can be convicted of committing rape or attempt to rape. If a child is not eligible for punishment but he is capable of committing murder then it is against the principle of justice and principle of proportionality of punishment if he is given the blanket immunity. The understanding of a 16 years old is at par with the adult.

In Bodhisattwa Gautam vs. Subhra Chakraborty, the Court held that to provide blanket immunity to juvenile offenders is a violation of the fundamental right to life of the victim under Article 21. In Roper vs. Simmons, the Court held that every juvenile cannot be treated under the same category. They should be tried according to their maturity, intelligence and life experience.

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Provisions for the reformation of a child in the Juvenile Justice Act

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 is enacted with the objective to help the juveniles by reforming and rehabilitating them. The Act has achieved immense success on some fronts but still needs the changes to accommodate every kind of problems faced by juveniles. The Act in Chapter IV provides a variety of measures needed to be taken for the rehabilitation and reformation of the juveniles.

Section 40 of the Act envisages regarding the process and social integration of the child. The reformation process of the child shall begin during the stay of the child in the juvenile home, the process of reformation can be carried out in the following ways:

  1. ADOPTION
  2. FOSTER CARE
  3. SPONSORSHIP
  4. SENDING THE CHILD TO AFTERCARE ORGANISATION

Section 41 of the Act envisages about the adoption:

  • The primary responsibility of providing the care and protection of the child is of his family.
  • Adoption shall be resorted to for the rehabilitation of the orphaned or abandoned children through the mechanism as may be prescribed.
  • In accordance with the guidelines issued by the state government, or Central Adoption Resource Authority, or the guidelines notified by the Central Government from time to time, if the court is satisfied by the investigation carried out by the authorities, that the children are eligible for the process of adoption then, the court shall allow the child for the adoption.
  • The state government can recognise one or more than one of its institutions as an orphanage in adoption agencies of each district in such a manner as may be prescribed under the notification issued by the state government.
  • No child shall be offered for adoption:
  1. Until two members of the committee declare the child free to be placed in the abandoned category.
  2. After the completion of the two months, during which the parents of the child deny to reconsider the child.
  3. without his consent in the condition when the child is capable of understanding and expressing his will.

The court may allow a child to give in adoption:

  • To a person irrespective of his marital status.
  • To a childless couple.
  • To a person irrespective of the number of children of the same sex that he has.

Section 44 provides for the foster care of the child.

  1. Foster care can be used for the temporary placement of those infants who will soon be given for the adoption.
  2. In foster care, the child may be given to the other family, for a short or extended period of time, wherein the children of the parents will be visiting the child regularly in the observation homes, and the child can also go to his home.

Section 45 provides for the sponsorship.

  1. The sponsorship programme provides supplementary support to families, children’s homes and special homes to meet the nutritional, medical and educational needs of the children.
  2. The state government may make various rules for the purpose of sponsorship of children, such as individual to individual sponsorship and group to group sponsorship.

Section 46 provides about the aftercare organisation:

 The state government, may by rules, provide for:

  1. For the recognition and establishment of the aftercare organization and make the rules and regulations for them.
  2. For the standard and care that should be maintained by such aftercare organisations.

Section 51 provides for the fit facility:

The Board or the committee shall recognize any facility run under governmental control for the purpose of caring for the child after the enquiry. The organisation has to follow the process as prescribed by the board. The implementation of the reformation and social integration is of utmost concern as the state government is not implementing the provision of the above-mentioned sections. The state government should keep close eyes on the torture and harassment juveniles face in observation homes. The machinery involved in ensuring the safety of the Juveniles are not following the laws. According to the report of the Asian Centre for Human Rights out of 39 sexual assault cases studied, 11 of them were committed in observational homes run by the government.

Suggestions for prevention of crime committed by the child

These are the following suggestion for the prevention of crime by a child:

  1. The control of juvenile delinquency needs effective implementation of Juvenile Justice Act with full public awareness and with proper training programmes to law enforcement agencies in the country.
  2. The application of the UN Rules of juveniles deprived of their liberty (1990).
  3. The rules and regulation for the juveniles must be applied strictly.
  4. A proper mechanism should be created to assess the needs and requirements of the juvenile.
  5. The approach of agencies may be more of a reformative nature rather than penal.
  6. The government should implement policies of welfare for the Juvenile in the long term.
  7. The government should open a separate establishment for Juveniles. The activities performed by the Juveniles in those establishments should enhance their productivity.
  8. The government should implement the policies of the countries where the juvenile delinquency rate has decreased after the reformative approaches adopted by the government.
  9. All the stakeholders in the reformation process of the Juvenile should work in networking to ensure the effective implementation of their plans.

Conclusion

Juvenile delinquency has increased exponentially in society within the last few decades. The perversion of the juveniles to commit a crime is a result of our technological advancement. The parents and the authorities involved in the upbringing of the child are entrusted with the duty to ensure that their child should understand the moral and ethical behaviour that is expected from society. It’s the time to focus on a pan India programme in which the government will make the juvenile aware of their capabilities. The programme must enlighten the juvenile to use their power in a constructive and beneficial way so as to do something good for society.

References

  1. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/juvenile-homes-are-hellholes-says-report-on-child-rape/article4637540.ece
  2. http://rchive.indiaspend.com/cover-story/juvenile-crimes-rise.

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