Juvenile Crime in India
G.R ADITHYA, 10:30 PM IST
“No person is born criminal ; society and his choices make him one”
There is also a feeling in people’s minds that a crime of lesser severity may be excused. Which is valid at times, but can not be accepted as a rock-solid theory to be followed.
One thing that is clear is that a crime that may be insignificant or hateful is still a crime against the government and society at large. It was not until the 19th century that the justice system actually understood that a line had to be drawn between adult crimes and juvenile offences, until both children and adults were measured on the same scale. Generally, people have different views about juvenile crime, some consider it to be a violation of human rights, and others consider it to be a function of fairness and justice. However, thinking creatively about the criminal justice system is the need of today’s changing society. Youth crime is a well-recognized phenomenon in the modern world. The laws on juvenile delinquency are different in all countries, but one thing that is clear everywhere is that a child who is not mature enough should not be prosecuted for a crime committed by him. Thus, though punishing a juvenile could, at first instance, seem inhumane but not punishing him, it may also contribute to a further increase in the severity of the crimes committed by such a juvenile. Therefore, in dealing with juvenile crime, we must look very closely, since all reason for punishment depends on the stage of maturity of the juvenile, which can be derived from the conduct of the minor just before and after the commission of the offence.
In accordance with the well-established principles of natural justice, everyone has the right to a fair trial and the right to be heard. It would therefore be a breach of the principles of natural justice to convict a juvenile without giving due consideration to the degree of maturity achieved by him, and it would be the same to convict a minor in the mere sense of being in a delicate age. Without a doubt, such a procedure can be lengthy and extensive, but it is clear that a fair trial for juveniles can not be held solely on the basis of an innocent age, nor can it be enforced without taking into account the degree of maturity of the juvenile.
In this Article, we will explore the viewpoint of different nations on juvenile justice and look deeper at the structure of the criminal justice system and its procedures.
INTRODUCTION OF VIOLENCE AT GENERAL LEVEL
Crime has not been explicitly established in any legislation in the modern world. Eminent jurist William Blackstone, in his book Commentaries on the Laws of England, described crime as “an act committed or omitted in violation of public law forbidding or commanding.”
According to modern interpretations, crime is nothing but a violation of the law that is wrong with society. It is the fact that crime is wrong against society as a whole, which makes it more clear to prosecute the criminal. In criminal law, punishing the perpetrator has one of the main purposes of setting a precedent for society that such actions or omissions will have a dissuasive impact.
ELEMENTS OF CRIMES
- Human Being-It is very common that a crime can only be committed by a human being, identified as a criminal, on his own will or on the initiative of another person.
- Mens Rea-As per universally accepted concept, without Mens Rea there can be no crime. Mens Rea in simple terms means evil intentions or a guilty mind. Generally, it is impossible to prove mens rea in criminal proceedings, because it needs to be derived from the offender’s behaviour. The link between men’s rea and crime is beautifully defined by the maxim, “Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” which means both guilty intent and acting together in favour of such intention is a crime.
- Actus Reus-Actus reus was first described by Professor Kenny in his book. The Penal Rule of Kenny, where it was described as the material result of the conduct of the accused. Actus reus is the requisite transparent act that leads to a successful execution of the offence.
- Injury-This is the final aspect of the crime. Any person who commits an open act must cause harm to an individual or society as a whole in order to constitute a crime. Thus, the extent of injury is not limited to personal harm, but has a broader scope.
STAGES OF CRIME
Crime is performed at different stages, and not all of these stages are punishable in themselves. The Crime Levels are:
Intention-This is the destructive driving force to commit a crime. The aim is often confused with the motivation, but they are both distinct.
Put together in simple terms, the intention is to commit a crime, while the motive is the end result of the act. Reason alone is not enough to constitute a crime.
Preparation-Preparation requires the coordination of the appropriate means to carry out the purpose. This stage is usually not punishable on its own, although there is some exception to it. E.g. They wage war against the government.
Attempt-As soon as the planning is complete, there comes the stage of Attempt, which is a step towards the execution of the offence. It should be noted that the intention is that the very act which can be directly linked to the offence, i.e. the crime, should be causative.
A significant feature of the attempt is that it is short-lived to be classified as a total offence. This stage may be categorically punished.
Completion-The final stage of the crime is the effective achievement of Intent. At this point, there is no way a person can avoid criminal responsibility.
One thing that can be noted here is that a guilty mind and an open behavior are the key ingredients of a crime, i.e. Mens Rea & Actus Reus, please. It was a widely recognized principle that a child of tender age or a minor is not capable of forming a mens rea, which is the primary justification for rendering a child’s criminal act an exception to criminal liability.
However, recent trends in crime around the world have shown that this theory can not be a straight-line method for deciding on the accountability of a child, but rather that it is the degree of maturity of a child that needs to be measured before deciding on a child’s crime.
JUVENILE CRIME AND GROWTH
Living in an ever-evolving environment has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, as we move forward with the 21st century, exciting advances are coming up every year in the fields of technology, medicine and engineering, but as it is said, there are still two sides to the coin, the other side of this beautiful changing world is that crime is rare today.
In recent years, Juvenile Crime has escalated at an unprecedented pace. In the United States, juvenile crime has increased by 35% between 2014 and 2018 . While the overall number of juveniles arrested under the Indian Penal Code in India stood at 73.8% of the overall cases reported in 2016 for 1860 and other special laws.
Similarly, according to Tarak Dhital, Executive Director of the Central Child Welfare Board, Lalitpur, the reported juvenile cases increased from 138 delinquency cases with 156 defendants in Juvenile in 2016 to 295 delinquency cases with 347 minor defendants in 2017.To grasp the Juvenile Crime, let’s see who the Juvenile is. Juvenile is a person who is less than 18 years old than on the date of the proceedings8 i.e. is a minor. The age of minor varies from one nation to another, for example in Nepal a person is considered to be minor means a person who has not reached the age of 16 years9 while in India this age is 18 years10.
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY AND ITS CONTRIBUTING FACTORS
Juvenile Delinquency is a situation in which an offence is committed by a person who has not celebrated his 18th birthday on the day of the commission of such an offense13. Simply put, it is a crime phenomenon committed by a minor. Explaining juvenile delinquency in legal terms is easy, but interpreting it in a wider sense can be very difficult.
In order to obtain a deeper insight into the idea of juvenile delinquency that can be the focus of a separate research report. For now, let’s stick to the description above. Delinquency is not just a crime or an offence, but is made up of a variety of behaviours. Some of the delinquent behaviour is as follows:
Breaking the rules- Children are meant to be naughty, so they are also likely to break the rules. But there is a very thin line between the accidental act of breaching law and the intentional act of the same thing. If a child is not warned and directed at the right time, he or she will become a serious offender in the future. The basic purpose behind violating the law for any child is to gain his or her independence. Therefore, in order to make children comply with the laws, it is important to ensure that the laws are neither too restrictive nor should they limit the legitimate desires of childhood.
Addiction – Addiction of any sort is not good for physical and mental wellbeing. Today , children have access to different knowledge providers, e.g. The Internet, where they can come across any drug that is addictive. It is the responsibility of parents to keep a close eye on the behavioural changes in their infant, so that any kind of addiction can be identified and handled at an early stage.
Theft and Pickpocketing- The majority of street children are involved in these practices, and the reason for this ranges from poverty to adult coercion. Theft is committed by everyone at some point in their childhood, be it theft of favourite food from mom’s custody or theft of favourite comic book from a brother’s cupboard.
But once the child starts to enjoy it, such actions can become a matter of serious concern. But, if such activity is coarcted at the right time, it doesn’t become a serious problem.
Fighting- Most juvenile crimes are acts of rage and frustration by minors. The simple explanation for this is a big hormonal transition. When a child is unfamiliar with the idea of the Ego, rage and retribution appear to shape their own views and behave that is the best way in their conscience to deal with it. It is also clear that parents and guardians should sit with their children and support them.
CORE REASONS FOR DELINQUENT BEHAVIOUR
There are a number of causes that contribute to delinquent conduct on the part of a juvenile. The most important explanations for juvenile delinquency are:
Poverty-poverty alone is not responsible for delinquent behaviour, but once it is coupled with lack of education, it becomes the most common reason for juvenile delinquency.
Bad Company-People with whom an individual spends time have a major impact on their development. The same is true of girls. In a UNESCO survey, it was noted that most children recognised that their friends weren’t healthy, but they still embraced them as children had no other friends or family interested in being a friend of theirs.
Ignorance-The most common factor contributing to delinquent conduct is ignorance. Ignorance leaves a significant impact on your kids. A child is not capable of knowing the essence of his or her actions. Parents must therefore spend some good time with their children.
In the modern world, every nation follows the reforming principle of punishment, i.e. no one can be punished without a reasonable chance of reformation and repentance. In particular , given the tender age of juveniles, this is important in cases of juvenile delinquency. A child is like a rough clay that can be shaped in any way that one likes. The need for reformation is also very clear when contemplating the treatment of juveniles. It is widely agreed that harsh punishment must be the last resort and must be permitted only in extraordinary situations.
However, this definition of reformation is questionable in the light of recent trends in juvenile crime. However, we can believe that such harsh punishment for juveniles is a violation of human rights, but if we accept the view of the police or law enforcement agencies who deal directly with such cases, a question arises as to the efficacy of the modifying punishment. The same problem was faced by the Indian Judiciary in 2012, when a terrible gang rape incident occurred in Delhi , India. Any person who came across this incident was in an utter shock after he had learned of this barbarous crime. Among the accused was a juvenile, given how cruel this incident was, an appeal was made in the nation to prosecute him and punish him as an adult as a maximum penalty under the Indian laws that could be levied on him for three years. Considering his direct participation as a heinous act, this penalty was not enough in the eyes of mankind. However, it was rightly noted by the Judiciary that such a barbarous occurrence is very unusual, such that it would not be reasonable to lower the age of consent or bring about any significant improvement in the act of juvenile justice, since there are so several instances in which offenders have the ability to improve.
But for the time being, all we can do is spend time with minors and assist NGOs and other organisations that encourage street children and other minors to improve through donations and to participate readily in activities organised by them. So, for the last moment, I would like to remind everybody to be a responsible member of society.
Contribute something to the growth of youth around them.