By Kshitiz Sharma, Delhi Institute of Rural Development, GGSIPU, Delhi.
More than a century ago, Abraham Lincoln said “A child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. He is going to sit where you are sitting, and when you are gone, attend to those things you think are important. You may adopt all the policies you please, but how they are carried out depends on him. He is going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities and corporation. The fate of humanity is in his hands”
Juvenile: A young person, who is not yet old enough to be legally considered an adult. Section 2(k) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 defines “juvenile” or “child” as a person who has not completed eighteenth year of age.
Delinquency: Crimes or other morally wrong acts, illegal or immoral behavior especially by young people.
Definitions of juvenile/child under various national legislations:
- Child labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
Section 2(2), “Child” means a person who has not completed the age of 14 years.
- Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.
Section 2 (a), “Child” means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.
Section 2 (a), “Child” means a person who has not completed the age of sixteen years.
Juvenile delinquency is one of the most heinous problems of our times. It basically means anti-societal behavior. The different forms of delinquent behavior include loitering, loafing, pick-pocketing, stealing, gambling, sexual offences like eve teasing, etc. The rate of delinquency is rising really fast all over the world and one of the main suspected reasons could be the negligence portrayed by parents. Delinquency is a legal term used to describe criminal behavior carried out by a juvenile. It is usually the result of escalating inappropriate behavior at home, school or in the community. According to a survey, parents view delinquency as excessive or violent fighting with siblings, defacing or destroying property, and stealing money from parents and other relatives. Juvenile delinquency is often caused or made worse by peer pressure.
In our country, the concept of delinquent behavior is confined to the violation of the ordinary Penal Laws of the Country, carried out by boys or girls up to the age of eighteen years. State laws prohibit two types of behavior for juveniles: the first includes behavior, which is criminal for adults, as for example, murder, rape, fraud, burglary, robbery, etc. and the second includes status offenses like running away from home, unruly or ungovernable truancy, etc. Juvenile justice is commonly understood as a notion of fairness and justice and an alternative system of dealing with children through laws. Here the emphasis is protective, restorative, and reintegrated with care and rehabilitation. Thus, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, aims at evolving effective mechanisms and creating the necessary environment for care, protection, development and rehabilitation of juveniles in conflict with law.
Family plays a larger role in juvenile delinquency-: when there are loop holes in a family unit, delinquency seems to be inevitable. Through the help of family, one is able to integrate firmly in a society. The family type is also an important factor and children from non-traditional families have a greater chance of engaging in delinquent behavior than children from traditional families. Economic conditions inherent in single parent families may place children at a great risk. No child is ever born as a criminal. It might be their surroundings, the peer group, improper socialization, and lack of parental care, which give rise to the delinquent behavior among children. Child development is not only known by taking care of the basic biological needs of the children but also providing them an environment for proper socialization and extra development for the child. Providing the children with a protective cover through strict warning and rigid restrictions are not the solutions to prevent the delinquent behavior. The parents need to provide gentle guidance and create close communication to help the children to come under the protective cover. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1990 which was conscripted by the UN Commission on Human Rights, aimed at protecting and supporting the well-being of children.
The Indian Judiciary plays a very important role and has passed many significant judgments and orders in favor of child rights
In Sheela Barse v. Union of India – The Supreme Court issued directions to the State Government to set up necessary observations home where children accused of an offence could be lodged, pending investigation and trial.
In M.C Mehta vs. State of Tamil Nadu – The Supreme Court pronounced upon the constitutional perspective of abolition of child labor and issued appropriate guidelines to the Government of India, with respect to compulsory education, health, nutrition, etc. for the child laborers.
In Sakshi v Union of India – The Supreme Court directed the Law Commission to conduct a study and submit a report on the means of curbing child abuse.
In Vishal Jeet v Union of India – The Supreme Court issued appropriate directions on PIL to the State Governments and all Union Territories for eradicating the evil of child prostitution and for evolving plans for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of the young fallen victims.
PREVENTION OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY
It is widely proved that an early-phase intervention represents the best approach to preventing juvenile delinquency. In order to prevent juvenile crimes we have to deal not only with the maladjusted children whose difficulties bring them before law but also with those, who, while not violating laws, are disturbing others in school and other places. First of all, we should identify such juveniles first, and thereafter give them treatment. Prevention requires we need to individual, groups and, organizational efforts that aim at keeping juveniles from breaking the law. Through the economic sector, development programmes involving professional training, vocational educations etc. are the areas which can help and prevent youth involvement in delinquent activities. In legal application of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, it is vital for the authorities to be involved in the Juvenile Justice System, to build an effective partnership with the civil society. Involvements of NGOs and local communities can also help in preventing juvenile gang delinquency. Government should put more emphasis on attractive beneficial long-term schemes for juveniles so that they regain their self-confidence and feel motivated to join main stream of the society.
Juvenile Delinquency and the problems related to it have been faced by all societies, all over the world, however, in the developing world, the problems are all the more formidable. The process of development has brought in its wake a socio-cultural upheaval affecting the age-old traditional ways of life in the congenial rural milieu. In fact, various scientific advances and concomitant industrialization and urbanization have ushered in a new era, which is characterized by catastrophic changes and mounting problems. Cities have sprung up with heterogeneity of population, cultural variations, occupational differentiation and overcrowded conditions.
According to me, there are some highly proficient measures that can be followed by the Government, to rectify juvenile delinquency. Providing shelter homes to the child laborers as well as providing correction homes for the child offenders, would be a welcome step in that direction. Moreover, simply providing is not enough, correcting them is primarily important. If we correct them, we are improving their future as well. The Government should take those steps, which have a more powerful impact, in reducing it.