Children are the assets that society holds. Due to various social, economic or biological reasons, these children often travel in a deviated and agitated pathway different from their age group. Thus this creates a social system where children act against the law and hold conflict against it.
The juvenile justice system is an area of law that seeks to help these agitated children follow the right path with proper care and protection. The children contribute to the country’s future, and hence the juvenile justice system is built to provide a new healthy pathway for the agitated children. The idea with which such a system thrives is that the children, at their tender age, can be tackled with mild and understanding behaviour.
For the past few years, we have witnessed a surge in the crimes committed by minors. These often lead to a dilemma in the judicial system regarding what should be the right approach. In India, we do not follow a hard and fast rule, but the current system primarily prioritises rehabilitating children who require correction and guidance.
This article seeks to throw light on the peculiarities of the juvenile justice system in India, its history, development and current position in the world view.
Although the Indian Constitution seeks to protect its citizens through Fundamental Rights and imposes duties upon the state through Directive Principles of State Policy, a law for the protection of children and juvenile offenders was one of the basic requirements of post-independent India.
Thus, the Children’s Act of 1960 was enacted. This Act was a solid one. It prevented children from being imprisoned, provided welfare, education, guidance and training to those who needed help. Moreover, the establishment of observation homes, special school systems, and so on were also some of the peculiarities of this Act.
Then came the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986. This is a result of the United Nations Minimum Rules for Administration of Juvenile Justice of 1985 (also known as Beijing Rules). Moreover, it was to bring a uniform juvenile justice law to the whole of India.
The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 was an effort made to adhere to the principles set out in UN Conventions. This Act mainly dealt with the rehabilitation of minors. Further, section 4 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 sets out for the Juvenile Justice Board.
Until the Nirbhaya incident (Delhi Gang Rape Case), we could see a reformative approach in treating juvenile offenders. With an increasing number of minors committing heinous crimes, the Juvenile Justice Laws needed to be updated. Thus, a retributive approach was adopted in treating the same.
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Claim of Juvenility
A juvenile is a person who has not attained the age of 18 years. A juvenile is a minor who has committed an offence and is in need of protection and care.
The claim of juvenility is to be determined by the Juvenile Justice Board. The claim of juvenility, when raised before any court or if the court is opinionated that a person is juvenile while and during the proceedings or on the date when the offence was committed, the court can inquire into the same and take necessary evidence in order so that the age of the person is found. A claim as to juvenility can be made during any stage of the proceeding of the case, even in the final stage or after that. The claim shall be recognised as per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act of 2000.
In the case Ashok Kumar and Ors vs State of Madhya Pradesh (2021), it was held that juvenility could be claimed at any time, even after the disposal of the case.
Juvenile Justice System in India
As stated above, it was the need of the hour to adopt a system that was deterrent and reformative at the same time. Thus, the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 replaced the Act of 2000 (Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000). This new 2015 Act focused on creating a balance between deterrent and reformative approaches. Some of the peculiarities include:
- Under this law, children above 16 who have engaged in heinous crimes were made to be tried as adults after considering their mental capacity.
- It envisages the setting up of Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district.
- It also included provisions relating to the adoption and requirements of the adoptive parents. Further, it also provides for the setting up of the Central Adoptive Resource Agency, which is to frame rules and regulations relating to adoption.
- Special courts were established to try juveniles only.
Constitution and Juvenile Justice
Being the fundamental law of the land, the Constitution of India provides rights and imposes duties. Further, it holds the working of Government Machineries.
Part III of the Indian Constitution provides the citizens with Fundamental Rights, and Part IV holds for the general guidelines for framing government policies. Thus, The Government machinery will have to craft and formulate policies that will provide justice to the juveniles. This includes:
- The right to education
- Protection from child labour and forced bonded labour
- Protection from human trafficking, and so on.
Juvenile Justice System in Other Countries
The juvenile justice system is recognized all over the world. These are some of the juvenile justice systems that ensure the harmonious development of adolescence.
The United Kingdom
In the UK, the Children’s Act of 1908 established Juvenile Courts for the first time. The system followed in the country is a reformative one.
Further, the Children and Young Offenders Act of 1933 holds that the children should be tried in the courts specially made for juveniles only and sent to Remand Homes.
The United States
In the USA, the system followed is a simple one. Juvenile Justice courts and the whole system follow an informal way through police courts. Juvenile offenders, after the trial, if found guilty, are sent to the Children’s Homes or Certified Schools. The system aims at the correction and rehabilitation of children.
Analysis and Conclusion
The age group from 6 to 18 is a very sensitive one. It is the age when the children can be easily influenced. The influence may be good or bad. Thus, awareness is to be created among them to prevent exploitation, abuse, and other negative influences.
The reasons for juvenile delinquency (minor crime, especially that committed by young people) are hundreds. Unemployment, poverty, social or domestic reasons are the most common ones.
As we are witnessing high rates of children engaging in criminal activities, it has become necessary to have a legal system that effectively tackles the issues. The goal is to eradicate the root cause and provide a simple yet non-compromising system that will help rebuild the lives of the children. Thus, the justice system should be more open and friendly to the children.