Analyzing the Correct Approach towards Juvenile Delinquency

Author: Surbhi Sarwa pursuing BA LLB ( Hons) from University Five Year Law College, University of Rajasthan.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

- Fredrick Douglass

Juvenile is the age of a child from his birth till he becomes a major. In this period the child requires utmost care and a healthy environment as these are the years where a child observes and learns from his surroundings. Delinquent character of a child is not something that the child is born with; rather it is developed into the child with years because of the surroundings that he is brought up in, his own absurd actions or simply lack of discipline and proper education. Children are expected to be obedient, respectful and have good virtues. However, due to certain circumstances, some children are unable to follow the set social and legal dictum. These children often get involved in criminal behavior which is known a Juvenile Delinquency or Juvenile Crime. Some of the circumstances which play a major role in diverting the attention of a child towards delinquent behavior include problems in the family (Economic, psychological, social, and moral, etc.), peer group influence, parenting style, drug use, physical and sexual assault, etc.

Meaning of the Term ‘Juvenile’:

Generally the term child is used for a person who has not attained the age of 18 years. Due to non-attainment of the age of majority, a child is considered to be ‘doli incapax’ which means he is presumed to be incapable of omitting a crime. But with the passage of time, this maxim has lost its significance as the instances of crimes at the hands of children are increasing. Therefore, a child is said to be different from juvenile. Juvenile is a child who has not attained a certain age at which he, like an adult can be held liable for his criminal act under the law of the land. The term juvenile is used to denote a child who is alleged to have committed some act violating the law which is determined to be an offence. The term juvenile is used when reference is made to a young criminal offender while minority denotes to the state of legal incapacity.

The term juvenile[1] has been defined under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (hereinafter referred to as JJ Act) as a child below the age of eighteen years. The dictionary meaning of delinquency is any wrong full act or the act which is unconstitutional or against the law especially among young generation. Therefore, the term juvenile delinquent or children in conflict with law refers to any children below the eighteen years who has come in contact with juvenile justice system as result of committing a crime or being suspected of committing a crime.

India’s Approach towards Juvenile Delinquency:

The Juvenile Justice Act in India was passed in 1986. However, several issues such as increasing incidents of abuse of children in institutions, inadequate facilities, quality of care and rehabilitation measures in children homes, delays in adoptions, lack of educated, trained and responsible staff led to the repealing of the existing Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. It was re enacted in 2015 while taking into account the standards prescribed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985, Beijing Rules, the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, 1990, and the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Inter-Country Adoption, 1993.

The Act of 2015 has made significant changes in the punishing policy of juvenile delinquents. It deals with different categories of children, namely children without parents or generally called as abandoned child[2], children who are in need of care and protection[3], children who are in conflict with law[4] and juveniles who have been convicted of an offence and have been ordered to be sent to special homes for three years[5]. The JJ Act provides for the formation of different child care institutions observation homes, special homes and other places according to the needs of the children.

The Indian law regarding juvenile delinquency has stressed its opinion on the reformation of children since the Act of 1986. It has been believed since a long time that a child cannot be held liable for their acts unless it can be proved that he is capable of understanding the nature of his acts and forming a rational opinion about the consequences of his acts. Generally children below the age of 12 years are considered to be incapable of understanding the nature of their acts unless proved otherwise. Hence, the policy of reforming children has been followed ever since the inception of first law dealing with juvenile delinquency because it is believed that children, due to their innocence are bound to follow what happens in their surroundings and thus make mistakes. Therefore it is not fair to punish them by putting them in jails along with habitual offenders and lead them towards the life of criminality. They must be given a chance to learn from their mistakes and with proper care and protection reform themselves into law abiding citizens.

But with time, the cases of crimes being committed at the hands of juvenile have been increasing and the policy of reformation has not been able to provide the results it was supposed to. So to overcome this problem, the concept of judicial waiver was introduced through the amendment of 2015 which empowers a judge to transfer the case of a juvenile offender from juvenile court to an adult court denying a juvenile the protection of their jurisdiction. This amendment was introduced in order to assuage the public demand of introducing stringent laws for juvenile delinquents in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya Gang Rape. As a result of this amendment, a juvenile between the age group of 16-18 years can be tried as an adult if he is accused of committing a heinous crime. This is only possible after the preliminary assessment by juvenile Justice Board.


It is truly believed that modern problems require modern solutions. The ever increasing cases of juvenile delinquency have led to introduction of stringent punishments for juvenile offenders. The criminal mindset adopted by such children has led towards introduction of harsher punishment for them. It is the need of the time to punish the juvenile who commits a heinous act as the reformation policy will probably bring no good to that juvenile as well as the society. But it must also be kept in mind that they are just children and not hardened criminals, therefore they must not be treated like one while undergoing their sentence. To change their mindset, it is necessary to bring a sense of fear of authorities in their mind. Although it is also necessary that they understand the heinousness of their acts and try to repent for their mistakes because only they can help themselves in making themselves better citizens.

[1] The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (Act 2 of 2016), s. 2 (35).

[2] The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (Act 2 of 2016), s. 2(1).

[3] Id s. 2(14). [4] Id s. 2(13). [5] Geeta Chopra, Child Rights in India: Challenges and Social Action, 148 (Springer Publication, 2015). Read More...

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