By Sanya Arora, a 3rd-year law student of Bennett University, Greater Noida.
Delinquency is an unlawful act done by a minor. The person who commits the crime is delinquent. To address such offences committed by minors, Juvenile courts have been set up. There are two types of juvenile offenders. First consists of a group where the offenders are adolescence limited while the other group consists of life-course persistent offender, who generally don’t stop such unlawful activities in childhood and continues in future too.
Juvenile delinquency is one of the serious problems of the nation. There has been a perceptible increase in juvenile crime. In the 1960s, the United States saw that the reason behind the increasing crime rate has been juvenile delinquency. The country focused on making its criminal system stronger. But by doing so the crime rate increased, they were more likely to commit homicides during the 1980s which alarmed the policymakers. These adolescents were sent to prisons and after the completion of their adolescent period, they were sent to adult prisons. The youth became more violent after being sent to prison. And when released from prison they were more likely to commit more serious crimes. When policymakers looked into this situation, they realized that sending juveniles to criminal justice system made them more violent. Therefore, a few special considerations were made for juveniles. The Supreme Court held capital punishments to be unconstitutional for juveniles. The reason behind this decision was the impulsive behavior of the youth. The impulsive behavior causes them to lose their self-control and hence they commit such crimes again and again.
The prevention of juvenile delinquency is the major concern. For its prevention, we need to assist children and their parents regarding such crimes committed by children at young age. Education plays an important role to assist families and children. There are some programs conducted in states to teach children about drugs, alcohol, weapons, etc. Such programs spread awareness among students regarding crimes which are committed under the influence of peer pressure and drugs. The youth should involve themselves in recreational activities because as per the report of The Department of Education, the youths commit crime between 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
There have been a number of differences in the way of thinking and behavior between adolescents and adults. The main question which arose here is what influences or pressurizes these juveniles to commit such crimes? There are many cases of juvenile delinquency each with a different reason. Teens never think like adults and hence are susceptible to committing crimes. The most common reasons behind juvenile delinquency are broken family, lack of communication, financial hardship, peer pressure, drugs, bullying, and lack of affection from family. It took so many years for our country to set up laws for crime prevention. Government noticed a drastic increase in crimes committed by juveniles between 2005 and 2014 in India. Crimes which involved juveniles were increased by 50.6% between these years. Nirbhaya case was a wakeup call for the whole nation. A “wake up call” which compelled our government to setup laws to protect the women of our nation from such brutal crimes.
JUVENILE JUSTICE (CARE AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN) ACT, 2000
India took many years in making laws which separate Juvenile offender and adult offenders. The first juvenile court was made in Illinois in 1899. The court was to hear offences committed by children who were under 16. This was the first movement in the juvenile justice system. In India, Juvenile Justice Act had no such provision under which juveniles can be tried like adults even if they commit brutal rape or murder. Nirbhaya rape case took place in Delhi in 2012. The date December 16 still gives goose bumps, just a thought of such heinous crime made the whole nation to raise their voice for better law which could provide justice to the brave girl.
AMENDMENT AFTER NIRBHAYA RAPE CASE
Any person under 18 who commits crime and comes in contact with law is considered as juvenile delinquent. The Juvenile Justice Act was stuck in Rajya Sabha. There were many interventions by the opposition due to which the act was amended after three years when this crime was committed. The bill was criticized for violating UN Convention, according to which every child under the age of 18 should be treated equally. The amended act contained provisions to punish juveniles who will commit heinous crimes such as rape or murder. This amendment was the result of public outrage. The law of giving punishment was made after Nirbhaya case, therefore, it was not applied to juvenile offender in that case. Six men committed rape of a 23-year-old girl and threw her friend out of the bus. Out of six rapists, one was juvenile and was only six months short of 18. The girl died after a few days when rape was committed. The amendment in Juvenile Justice Act gives the power to magistrate to decide if a minor can be tried of committing crimes like rape or murder.
But according to the rules and provisions made before 2015, the juvenile was lodged in a correctional home for three years. In the courtroom when Nirbhaya’s parents heard that juvenile will walk free, they broke and said “JURM JEET GAYA AUR HUM HAAR GAYE”.
After the amendment of 2015, the bill gave power to try juveniles as adults, who are 16 or above and have committed heinous offences like rape and murder. The bill made it mandatory to set up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in all the districts.
India is a developing country and such amendments occur whenever such brutal crimes are committed. The age of juvenile offenders was reduced from 18 to 16 to be tried as adults only if they commit rarest of rare crime. There are many cases where the juvenile offender is 15 or even 14 years. The law should not always focus on amendments but should cover the loopholes also. The amendment took place because of Nirbhaya case but right judgment was not legislated in her favour as the juvenile was not tried.
Strict laws have been made to prevent rapes, still every 2.5 minutes a new case appears. We need to respond to such atrocities to avert such crimes. The future of our nation depends upon the youth. The Juvenile Justice System focuses on making reform, it wants to provide opportunity to all the children to change themselves. But should a chance be given for reformation to juveniles of age 14 or 15 if they have committed “rarest of rare crime” just like Nirbhaya rape case?
 Roper v. Simmons 543 U.S. 551 (2005)