Juvenile Justice in India by Neeti Rana

Juvenile Justice in India

* Neeti Rana[1]

Juvenile is a child under age of 18 years violates any law or is incorrigible, or knowingly associates with thieves, vicious or immoral persons; without the consent of its parents, guardian or custodian absents itself from its home or place of abode, or is growing up in idleness or crime, or knowingly frequents a house of ill repute; or knowingly frequents any policy shop or place where gambling device is operated; or frequents any saloon or dram- shop where intoxicating liquors are solid; or patronizes or visits any public pool room or bucket shop, or wanders about the streets in the night time without being on any lawful business or lawful occupation; or habitually wanders about any railroad yards or tracks or jumps or attempts to jump on to any moving train, or enters any car or engine without lawful authority, or uses vile, obscene, vulgar, or indecent language in any public place or about any school house, or is guilty of indecent or lascivious conduct.[2]A Juvenile court is a special court or department of a trial court which deals with under age defendants charged with crimes or who are neglected or out of the control of their parents. The normal age of these defendants is under 18, but juvenile court does not have jurisdiction in cases in which minors are charged as adults. It can be an attempt to involve parents or social workers and probation officers in the process to achieve positive results and save the minor from involvement in further crimes. Where parental neglect or loss of control is a problem, the juvenile court may seek out foster homes for the juvenile, treating the child as a ward of the child.[3]Juvenile is used when reference is made to a young criminal offenders and minor relates to legal capacity or majority. Juvenile Laws provides blanket immunity to juveniles below the age of eighteen years from any punishment irrespective of the circumstances and nature of the crime.


Juvenile Justice is the legal system that aspires to protect all children, bringing within its ambit the children in need of, proper care, and reintegration besides those in conflict with law. It is to provide a special approach to the treatment of juveniles, to outline the machinery and infrastructure requires for the care, development and rehabilitation of juvenile, to establish norms, standards for administration, linkages and co-ordination between the formal system of juvenile, safeguarding the rights of children and voluntary efforts in the welfare and to constitute special offences in relation to juveniles and provide punishment.






Crime, when committed by a Juvenile, takes a different dimension all together. The issue is much more delicate to handle and the tapes of society are much larger and deeper .It not only reflects on the present state of the society but also gives an indication about future of that society. Since a nation’s future depends upon the young generations, the children deserve compassion and bestowal of the best care to protect human resource. A child is born innocent and if nourished with tender care and attention, he or she will blossom with facilities physical, mental, moral and spiritual into person of stature and excellence. The criminal tendency of youngsters must be timely curbed so that they do not turn into habitual criminals in their future life.




The early penology did not recognize any discrimination between adult and juvenile offenders so far punishment was concerned. The movement for special treatment of juvenile offenders started towards the end of eighteenth century. Prior to this, juvenile offenders were dealt with exactly like those of adults. They were prosecuted in criminal courts and were subjected to same penalties as adults. That apart, they served their sentence in the same prison in which other hardened criminals were lodged. The obvious result of lodging juveniles and habitual offenders in the same prison was that these institutions virtually turned into breeding centres of vices and criminality




Juvenile delinquency takes place in various forms and very in degree, frequency, duration and seriousness and involves different forms of specialization like drug addiction, sex offences, predatory acts etc. Delinquency like other social behaviour has complex roots. The child because of his being future of the nation should be given atmosphere conducive to his being a responsible and sensible citizen. If the child is brought up in an unwholesome environment, he assimilates wrong norms and values and at later stage of life it becomes difficult to bring him to the right path.  It is now matter of common knowledge that a good number adult criminals committed first offence in their childhood, long before their first conviction as adult offender. Delinquency as a social disease cannot be treated without knowing about its causes. The subject of crime unlocks such powerful emotions that it is most difficult to obtain objective or scientific data on the incidence of crime and on the circumstances under which the crime rate rises and falls.

Types of Juvenile delinquencies

  • Biological
  • Socio-Environmental
  • Psychological


BIOLOGICAL- Emotional disturbance and discomfort may cause weakness and discomfort and may result in school truancy or dislike for work. Efficiency is generally weak and adversely affects his ability to work and he depends on others which may lead to antisocial behaviour. A person with speech problem is pitted or laughed at in the society. Due to this, feeling of inferiority may be developed which may lead to a desire to make up in criminal acts. A person who is possessed excessive physical strength and his mental trait being uncultured and not properly channelized, probability of his committing an act of offence becomes higher.


SOCIO-ENVIRONMENTAL- Migration of persons to new places where they are strangers offers them opportunity for crime as chances of detection are minimized considerably. In a dynamic society, social change is an inevitable phenomenon. The impact of modernization urbanization and industrialization in a rapidly changing society may sometimes result in social disorganization and this may led to culture conflicts between different values of different sections of society. The immigration affects the crime rate of a place. Culture conflict between inhabitants and immigrants results in deviant behaviour.

A child who is brought up in a broken family is likely to face an easy prey to criminality. The lack of parental control over children due to death, divorce, or desertion of parent or their ignorance or illness may furnish soothing ground for children to resort to criminal acts. The frequent quarrels amongst parents, undue domination of one over the other, step-motherly treatment with children, frequent births in the family, immorality of parents, misery, poverty of unwholesome family atmosphere unemployment, low income or parent’s continued long absence from home may led to the child to do commit the offence in the society. Some are the same factor which emanates from the family background.


PSYCHOLOGICAL-The offender’s mental traits, peculiarities to abilities play a very important role in the determination of delinquency. It is the mind that controls it; the mind is designed, defective or feeble. Bad schooling which includes cruel treatment by teachers creates hatred and frustration among the school going children which forces them to leave the school and take the path of delinquency. Use of drugs by the youngsters in these days is very common. Due to drug- addiction the children starts committing small offences. Intoxication results in assault on other family members particularly females and children which disturbs family discipline. The lack of discipline in family is highly hazardous to the child. The child should be checked whenever it is necessary otherwise they may indulge commission of offence. Bad Company ,adolescent instability , early sex experiences, mental conflicts, excessive social suggestibility, love of adventure ,motion pictures ,school dissatisfaction, poor recreation, street life ,vocational dissatisfaction ,sudden impulse, physical condition are also factors which turns a child into a juvenile offenders.


In India, under section 82 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 nothing is an offence which is done by a child up to seven years of age and under section 83 nothing is an offence which is done by a child above seven years of age and under twelve, who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequence of his conduct on that occasion. Section 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, provides that any offence, other than one punishable with death or imprisonment for life, committed by any person who at the date when he appears or is brought before the court is under the age of sixteen years may be tried by the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate or any Court specially empowered under the Children Act, 1960 or any other law for the time being in force providing for the treatment, training and rehabilitation of youthful offenders, The Reformatory Schools Act defined  a youthful offender as any male child who is below 15 years. The majority of the Children Acts passed in the various States fixed the upper age limits of protection at sixteen years. The more recent Acts of West Bengal and Saurashtra have raised this age limit to 18 years. The Central Children Act, 1960 retained the age of sixteen in case of boys but has extended it to eighteen for girls. The higher age limit in case of girls was considered to be essential in view of the social setting of our country where girls need protection for a longer period.  The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, imposes a restriction on the imprisonment of a person below 21 years. Thus, ordinarily a boy or a girl below 21 is not to be imprisoned. Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 treated a boy under16 years of age to be a juvenile. But in case of a girl this age limit was 18 years. Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 however, provided a uniform age of 18 years for boys and girls. Article 15(3) enables the State to make special provisions for children. Entitlement to free and compulsory education to free and compulsory education up to 14 years has been read into Article21. Article 23 and 24 further entire fundamental protections and Article 45 is supplementary to Article 24. Article 39(e) and (f) ensures distributive justice to children in the matter of education.


In Sheela Barse V. Union of India,[4] The Supreme Court of India speaking through Honbl’e Ranganath Mishra J.observed; “If a child is a national asset, it is the duty of the State to look after the child with a view to ensuring full development of its personality. That is why all the statutes dealing with children provide that a child shall not be kept in jail. Even apart from this statutory prescription, it is elementary that a jail is hardly a place where a child should be kept. There can be no doubt that incarceration in jail would have the effect of dwarfing the development of the child, exposing him to baneful influences, coarsening his conscience and alienating him from the society. It is the atmosphere of the jail which has highly injurious effects on the mind of the child, estranging him from the society and breeding in him aversion bordering on hatred against a system which keeps him in jail.”[5]


In Gaurav Jain V. Union of India[6], the Supreme Court of India rightly observed: “An institution established or certified by a State Government under Section 9 of the Juvenile Justice Act[7] is a juvenile Home. The object of the Act is not to punish the juvenile but to rehabilitate him or her, be it a delinquent juvenile[8] or a neglected juvenile. In the latter case, it is one of the obligations of the State to provide for care and concern and to establish a juvenile home under Section 9 of the Juvenile Justice Act”[9]




The Juvenile Justice Act 2000 has various provisions that indicate the positive approach towards child rather than punitive approach. Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was passed replacing the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 in order to update with international development such as adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations in 1989[10], the United Nations standard Minimum rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985 the Beijing Rules, and the United Nation Rules for the protection of Juvenile deprived of their liberty (1990). The convention on the Rights of the Child[11] emphasizes social reintegration of child victims, to the extent possible, without resorting to judicial proceedings. Through the Beijing Rules, The member states are, inter alia urged to develop on custodial measures to deal with the Juvenile offenders both at the pre –trial stage and the post-conviction stage. This is because, it is generally accepted that at this stage of their lives, juveniles are most susceptible to a number of influences and that given necessary support and encouragement, they will grow out of crimes and become normal law-abiding citizens[12].

Section 2(1) of the Act defines “juvenile in conflict with law” as a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence. In the 1986 Act, the corresponding term used was “child delinquent’’. In the 2000 Act, it is for the first time that the term “child in conflict with law” has been used. It is a positive way of describing the child and aims at bringing an attitudinal change amongst the functionaries of the Juvenile Justice System in particular and the whole society in general. Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice Act deals with orders that pass regarding juvenile. It gives list of the orders that may be passed and where there is no scope for imprisonment. The juvenile is sent home after the advice or admonition inquiry and counselling to the parent or the guardian and the juvenile.[13] The juvenile may also be directed to participate in group counselling and similar activities. Others orders that may be passed against the juvenile include performance of community service, payment of fine by the parent of the juvenile or the juvenile himself, if he is over fourteen years of age and earns money and release on probation of good conduct. Juvenile may also sent to a special home.[14] Section 16 of the Act deals with orders passes against juvenile. The section specifies that no juvenile in conflict with law shall be sentences to death or life imprisonment, or committed to prison in default of payment of fine or in default of furnishing security. Section 21 specifies the bars disclosure of the name, address or school or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile in conflict with law in any newspaper, magazine, newssheet or visual media. The publication may only be allowed if such disclosure is in the interest of the child. This provision includes the save child in conflict with law from the stigma attached with the proceedings. [15]Section 22 of the act makes a departure from the conventional criminal law position and mandates that no proceeding shall be instituted in respect of the juvenile for reason of escape from a special home or an observation home or from the care of a person under whom he was placed under the Act.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 takes a very positive view towards juveniles in conflict with law and follows a policy which is non punitive but is reformative in nature. The proceeding is in respect of a juvenile in conflict with law is non-criminal in nature. The proceedings are done in very informal. Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 is a progressive piece of legislation and is made for the best interest of child.


It is the duties of the society to look upon the children, child constitute the most vulnerable section of the society and are considered supremely important assets of our nation. All intervention must try and ensure that the physical, social, emotional and educational needs of the child are met in a secure, nurturing family environment. Society has a special responsibility towards children, whose vulnerability and dependence makes it mandatory for parents, adult authority figures and society as a whole to make a special response in law and practice. Family is the core unit of society and the major source of development of children. It provides nurturance, emotional bonding and socialisation to the child. Child personality also depend on the institution, the institution like school should make some efforts for the development of society and to protect child from crime. It is the duty of the institution to provide and ensure free and compulsory universal elementary education for all children until the age of 14 years. The institution must focus on the development of equity and social justice. They are dependent, have the least power, and have less control over their own lives. Among children there are some who are more marginalised and neglected than others because of their socio economic cultural circumstance. These children are considered as children in need of care and protection.

In order to prevent Juvenile Delinquents we have to deal not only with maladjusted children and youths whose difficulties bring them before law, but also with those who while not violating laws, are disturbing others in school and in the street. Prevention is necessary for the street. If they are not prevented then they would become the habitual offenders so their prevention is necessary. They make mistakes and become excited and fail to behave according to legitimate expectations. Over –crowding in the cities, coming up of slums, cinema, smuggling, gambling and drinking are some of the contributory factors responsible.

The most effective way to prevent juvenile delinquency has indisputably been to assist children and their families early on. Delinquency Prevention is the board term for all efforts aimed at preventing youth from becoming involved in criminal or other antisocial, activity. Increasingly, governments are recognizing the importance of allocating resources for the prevention of delinquency. Prevention services include activities such as substance abuse education and treatment, family counselling, youth mentoring, parenting education, educational support, and youth sheltering.







[1]  B.A.LL.B 10th SemesterLaw College Dehradun, Uttaranchal University

[2] lll. Rev, Stat. C. 23; see also Cavan, Juvenile Delinquency,15

[3] Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

[4] AIR 1986 SC 1773
[5] Ibid, p-1777, para-10

[6] (1997) 8 SCC 114
[7] The decision was given under Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 which is the Act preceding the present Juvenile Justice Act of 2000

[8] The concept of ‘delinquent juvenile’ as found under 1986 Act has been replaced with the concept of    child in conflict with law’ in the present Act following a positive approach.
[9] See Supra 7 at p-122, para-9

[10] The Government of India has ratified the Convention on the 11.12.1992
[11] After the Declaration, 113 nations, by consensus, promulgated the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action where the rights of child in general and girl child in particular, received worldwide recognition. It was resolved that the member States should integrate the Convention on Rights of the Child into their national action plan.
[12] See, Mishra R.C. crime Trends and Criminal Justice, 1st ed, p-244

[13]See Section 15(1)(a), the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000

[14] “Special home” is defined under Section 2(v) of the Act as an institution established by a State Government or by a voluntary organization and certified by that Government.
[15] See Section 21(2), The Juvenile Justice Act, 2000



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