It has been said by a learned man, Juvenile crime is not naturally born in the boy, but is largely due either to the spirit of adventure that is in him, to his own stupidity, or to his lack of discipline, according to the nature of the individual. One of the greatest challenges law experts have faced out of legal concerns is formulating the apt laws for juvenile crime.
Where a child is immature in his age while committing a crime, the suffering from crime is never less for the victim. Also, the justice system has to be lenient to the child considering the lack of malicious intent or any deliberate conscience in most cases. In India, the justice system has been thorough and thoughtful enough to deal with crimes by children. The court has engaged in discussions on reforming laws on Juvenile laws to serve justice and at the same time preserve the child’s rights.
The present article focuses on analyzing the Juvenile Laws in India, their evolution and the court’s important decisions on aspects.
It has been held by Delhi High Court that the age verification in offences committed by Juveniles should be done within 15 days from the date. The much-needed judgement came after when Anu Grover Baliga, secretary of Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee (DHCLC) mentioned that the reason for the delay in disposal of juvenile inquiries and cases is because of the no time frame given by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act) or Model Rules, 2016.
Who is ‘Juvenile” or ‘ Child’
Terms of Juvenile or Child are not defined in the constitution. Various laws provide their definitions or criteria to be termed as child or juvenile.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, Article 1 defines a child as a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. This definition was meant to be an international implication of matters and concerns.
In India, The Children Act, 1960 defines a child in Section 2 (e) as a boy who has not attained the age of sixteen years or a girl who has not attained the age of eighteen years. However, the act was repealed and various other legislations were enforced legislating the juvenile crimes. Juvenile under the currently applicable Juvenile (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 define a child as a person who has not completed the age of 18years.
Apart from these, various states are having their laws in which juveniles and children are defined differently. Also, the terms child and juvenile are used in exchange. It is worthy to note that the Juvenile is used for teens usually around 16years of age and they can be tried as adults for heinous crimes.
Increase in Juvenile Crime
With the passage of time, the law has been formulated again and again. Contrary to the fact, the crime rate by juveniles has only spiked year after year. The stats reported a greater number of cases from the capital region of the country. The shocking fact added was that 40% of crimes were as heinous as murder, rape and extortion. With laws in continuous formulation, why the crime rate is still high is a major concern. Lack of education, Teen dominancy and masculine expression are some of the major reasons for the increase in crime commitments by the young age group of 16 to 18.
Major Issues in the path
The first question that hits the mind is that is whether they should be treated like an adult doing a crime. The young generation is the backbone of the country. Mr V.K. Krishna Iyer, one of the former Chief Justice of India presented the opinion that child crime cannot be neglected as it will be the future of any country and overlooking their fault is like inviting future faults and errors and abandoning children on their malicious mind intent.
The foremost unsettled fact in this current issue is the uniform considering of the age factor to define a person as children. The Central and State variance on these legal facts has delayed the process of the justice system. Age verification is a very significant part of a juvenile case. The age determines the further steps and applicability of laws.
Like for instance Section 82 of Indian penal Code reads as Nothing is an offence which is done by a child under seven years of age.
Section 83 of Indian Penal Code 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.
These two sections define the different courses of action on the pinpoint fact of the age of the offender. Also, the phrase stating upon the maturity and judging capability of the offender is subjective in interpretation. There needs incorporation of test which is more rigid without any differences.
In cases like Salil Bali v Union of India and Mukesh & Ors v State of Delhi ( Delhi gangrape case), it has been strongly contented that crimes of heinous nature should be considered solely in the determination of the judicial process. Especially, the offenders of age 16 and 18. Various reports were presented of Psychological Institutes to establish the fact that a person in the age of 16 has developed enough maturity.
Yet the court has differentiated in considering their crime and that of adults. Like in the Delhi rape case 4 were given a death sentence, the juvenile convict was released. Current laws very precisely focus on the juvenile offenders’ social integration and development. It can also not be the case that juveniles are left rotting in jails without any development.
Considering all the facts imparting education seems one of the most enforceable and effective. Committing crime hints at the person’s ability of judging right and wrong and acting upon it. This brings us to the conclusion there are a lot of legal aspects to be settled and formulated by the legal experts and courts in the matter of juvenile crime and justice system.