The Juvenile Justice system around the world is a mechanism to deal with the youngsters, below 18 years of age who have committed crime. In India, such children are addressed with ‘children in conflict with law’.
Therefore, children who have not yet attained the age of 18 or the age of majority are tried under a set of law defined for this subject-matter. In India, this system was formulated under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
However, in 2015, serious changes were made and the new Juvenile Justice Act 2015 was passed in the Parliament and subsequently given assent by the president. Under JJ Act 2015, children aged 16-18 are to be tried as adults for committing heinous crimes.
So, why do we need a separate law for dealing with such offenders?
The very purpose of doing this is to provide children the rights. It is to help them give a chance to improve upon and lead a better life in the life ahead of them. It gives recognition to the fact that not all children grow up in the same circumstances, have access to education or even peace at home and school. A separate system which is completely devoted to welfare, rehabilitation, mending to the children in conflict with law is found globally. This system is intended to facilitate reintegration of these children in the society on a better note.
It is to be noted that crimes committed by children may have similar motives like their adult counterparts, but the juvenile justice system tends to reach the root causes of such behaviour of children. The United Nations Convention of Rights of the Child (UNCRC) provides certain rights of children such as Right to Survival, Protection, Participation, Development remind us that children are the future of the world, they must be corrected, mended, provided with level-playing ground, education and chance to improve.
But, as recent trends show that although total contribution of minors committing crimes is not increasing at a fast pace but the rate of individuals below 18 committing crimes against women like rape, murder, etc. is fastly increasing every year. In recent years this topic has become a moot point for reconsidering the protection such individuals enjoy under the JJ Act. Due to a rise in such incidents, the government made serious changes and introduced the JJ Act of 2015 to strictly take action against such offenders.
2012 Delhi gangrape has a minor just a few months short of being 18 who was responsible for giving serious injuries to the victim. Therefore, questions on the protection offered to minor criminals are often raised as such heinous crimes remove the question of treating these people as children altogether. Such incidents raise a big question on the justice system itself as to why victim-centric justice is not considered and rights of the criminals are given priority.
So, is there any ground for sympathy? Is it right to make the system more considerate of minor offenders?
Common public sentiment will say absolutely not. That there is no ground left for sympathy and giving a chance to these people. The other view offers a different approach. The JJ Act 2015 lists 46 crimes where minors can be tried as adults. These involve- share passing, theft or dacoity with intentions to hurt somebody, trafficking, etc.
Also,under the Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act offences like ownership, transport or business of substances like opium, poppy, etc. come under the ambit of this act. It is noteworthy that child offenders can be indulged into such practices forcefully or under unavoidable circumstances according to their psychology.
The brains of a fully grown adult and a minor are different and work differently. These children are often from poor backgrounds, have been affected by substance abuse, physical and mental abuse and home or with companions. Peer pressure is also a reason why children indulge in crimes. In today’s world children are exposed to a lot of information including adult sites with no proper guidance and direction to process this information.
Psychologists, sociologists also say that a not-fully developed adult brain (pre-cerebrum) causes a functional break in the brain in which the minor could not withdraw from a situation or cannot revert back to an external force causing it.
Therefore, punishing them like adults just becomes an act of revenge without making any serious amends to the problem. But, serious crimes like rape and murder still have a scope of trying them as adults. So, a thorough pre-investigation is necessary through comprehensive means like to decide whether a case qualifies for being tried as an adult case.
Minors committing crimes against women must not get way with it as it sets a wrong example for others. Therefore, there is definitely a scope of sympathy towards child offenders in the form of providing education, counselling but with appropriate action towards them according to the crime committed because then only justice can be served on both sides.
AUTHOR:- SURAMYA SHARMA
CATEGORY :- Polity / Public Administration
Topic :- Does India need to consider more sympathetically juvenile justice to safeguard children’s vulnerable actions?
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