WHETHER MINORS COMMITTING HEINOUS CRIMES SHOULD BE TREATED AS JUVENILE?

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INTRODUCTION

In our society, when a minor commits heinous crimes, the best method and how to balance the punishment, justice and rehabilitation become more complex as compared to adults. When any terrible offence has been committed ineluctably many questions arise. According to our Juvenile Justice System, if a minor commits any crime then it is considered as an act of stupidity, or spirit of adventure or lack of teaching and morals. The Latin maxim “doli capax”, means the person incapable of creating an intention required to conduct a crime. The origin of the Juvenile Justice System first came into existence during the British era. The very first act enacted in India was Madras Children Act, 1920 and was followed in Bengal and Bombay in 1922 and 1924 respectively. After that, the minor was divided into two categories: delinquent and negligent children and by this idea minors kept in rehabilitation to transform their character, can be released with good character. Imprisonment when the nature of offences was heinous. There has been legislation over Juvenile System in India comprising “Apprentices Act 1850; The Reformatory School Act, 1976; Children Act 1980 etc and the most important one Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. Later amended in the year 2006 and 2015.

WHO IS JUVENILE?

Juvenile refers to a person who has not passed the age of 18 but above the age of 10 years. The term means a teenager, very young, underage, childish and immature. Sometimes “child” is also used in the place of “juvenile”.

In a legal way, a Juvenile is a child who has not attained the certain age at which he would not be held accountable for any criminal act like an adult in the country. He/She is a person who committed an act or omission which is legally a violation of law but not declared as an offence. According to Juvenile Justice Act,2000, if a juvenile commits any crimes he should not be treated as an adult person when they commit crime and also not be tried in court of law for punishment.

WHY JUVENILE INDULGE IN SUCH CRIMES OR ACTIVITIES?

As per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 60% of the crimes against minors in India are usually held between the age of 16 and 18 year, as of 2013. The rate has increased in recent years, and those crimes also included the modesty of women being outraged. Actually there are a number of reasons which contribute to youth criminal nature. There are certain reasons behind such crimes: Social reasons, Psychological reasons, and Economic reasons.

Social Reasons

Family, Bad Association, School, Criminal Areas, Social disorganization, War, Entertainment etc

Economic Reasons

Poverty, Family conflict, Starvation, Employment of children etc

Psychological reasons

Mental Disease, Personality Traits, Emotional instability etc.

Crimes committed by the children of a specific age are called juvenile delinquency.

JUVENILE JUSTICE (CARE AND PROTECTION) SYSTEM, 2000

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 main objective is to provide protection for such children. Incident of “Delhi Gang Rape Case” literally frightful in which one of an offender was minor done the deadly crime. While the other criminals were sentenced to death, he was sentenced to a mere three years. After such an incident it compels everyone to think whether the minor, in this case, not mature enough as others, he is not “guilty mind” or incapable of forming “intention for committing such heinous crime.

Nirbhaya case brings out certain amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act. On 31st December 2015, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) System was implemented.

MAJOR FEATURES OF THE JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT, 2015

To establish a Juvenile Justice Board in the entire district to deal and resolve the conflict children are going through, with the law.

Raise composition and power of the Juvenile Justice Board.

Open rehabilitation centre for delinquent juveniles, as envisaged in Preamble and Fundamental Principles.

Section 12 (2) defines a child “a person who has not completed 18 years of age”. Two major heads of the children “child need proper care and protection” and “child in conflict with law.”

Divided juvenile crime into categories: a) Petty, b) Serious, c) heinous.

The Juvenile Board will comprise social experts and psychologists.

ARE THE AMENDMENTS GOING TO STOP THE MENACE – A CRITICAL ANALYSIS

The lawyer of Delhi High Court stated “by suggesting change in the juvenile justice system the Government has not done justice, the new juvenile law will not reform a juvenile but school him in crime. It is a serious deviation from the system of ‘parens patriae’, a doctrine that believes that the State is the parent of the nation”. After the pathetic incident, Delhi rape case (2012) and the Shakti Mills rape case, where minor was also one of the accused. The issue raises how to punish these juveniles, as in both the cases where others were sentenced to death, the juvenile was imprisoned for three year in remand home and got away. Then the question arises, how to punish enough to rectify a youth? How should the punishment be given to optimum positive result in changing the criminal characteristic and changing them?

Many experts suggested giving them the most severe punishment, dealt with an iron fist, treated them as adults, if any juvenile about 16 committed a heinous crime, sent to jail bypassing the juvenile justice board. The expert feels that the object of Juvenile Justice Board is reformative justice not retributive justice.

The three schools of thoughts have been pointed out:

The first one is to reduce the age.

The second one feels that the Government should not confer power to criticize children.

The third one is that the Government has no right to interfere and only after inspection, a child is treated as an adult.

STAND OF JUDICIARY ON SUCH CASES

After the Delhi Rape Case (2012), one of the accused was juvenile and tried in Juvenile court. Seeking that in the year 2013, A BLP politician, Mr. Subramaniam Swamy filed a PIL in Supreme Court with a plea to try a juvenile accused in an ordinary court of law.

On which a three judge bench rejected to interfere in the juvenile cases found with heinous crimes. It was held that the provision of the Act is in agreement with constitutional directives and international conventions. The Supreme Court transferred the case to Juvenile Justice Board, to make the best decision in which the board sent the juvenile to remand home for 3 years.

This judgement of the Supreme Court was criticized by the victim’s mother along with the public, for not punishing the juvenile as an adult and remarked that the court gives a path to encourage a minor to commit such crime without any terror.

After criticism, the Ministry of Women and Development made a draft, mention, the juvenile between 16 and 18 year of age should be treated as an adult if they committed any heinous crimes viz. Rape, robbery, murder etc

MEASURES TO REFORM SUCH CHILDREN

Once a child is detected with some weird behaviour like frustration, aggressive etc, one must not reject the individual.

Bring out positive change in society to encourage such behaviour.

Inculcate a sense of affection, love and security among them.

Parents should consult with children about their behaviour and detect early signs, it may help to destroy the tendency of criminal minds at the root.

Implant a sense of social and moral values.

REHABILITATION CENTRE FOR SUCH CHILDREN

Number of rehabilitation centres have been established for children who are in need of care and protection and in conflict with law. In these centres, the children are supplied with services of education, nutrition, treatment of disease, health, de-addiction, skill development, counselling etc. It will help them to build up their personality.

CONCLUSION

The statement is true “A child is the father of the man”. Whatever qualities build up in the child, will stay with them till the end. With bad qualities, we get such juvenile delinquency and vice-versa. There is no wrong in saying that every delinquent youth is a victim of a situation, no one is wrong since birth. It must be the responsibility and duty of each and every citizen of India whether as teacher, friends, parents, siblings and relatives, to guide them about right and wrong. It is for their betterment along with for the society as whole. It is important to remove bad from an individual, not an individual.

 

RITIKA SRIVASTAVA, THE ICFAI UNIVERSITY, DEHRADUN

 

Curated by Athira Albert of Kristu Jayanti College of Law, Bangalore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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