Child delinquency means an act of crime done by a child below the age of 16 years for boys and 18 years for girls. It can also be referred to as juvenile crime which is violative of law. As it’s a child below the age of majority doing a crime, special care is taken in order to judge such cases. It is statistically proven that childhood crimes make the root for one to become a criminal in their further life when they turn into an adult. Child delinquency is caused due to many reasons i.e guardian behavior, household culture, neighborhood and a child’s company.
The act which looks after the crimes committed by juveniles is called Juvenile Justice (Care and protection of children) Act, 2000. It is a consolidated law which looks after every aspect in regards to a crime committed by a juvenile. The most important section to be considered in this statute is sections 9-12 which facilitates the government in making and establishing Juvenile Homes, Special Homes, Observation Homes and After Care Organisations respectively for the Juveniles. For the betterment of the child’s future a different kind of trial system has been adopted which is mentioned in the above said act.
As juvenile crimes were increasing and the nature of crimes being committed by the juveniles were not petty in nature but heinous and serious the Supreme court requested the parliament to “rethink” and differentiate between juveniles involved in innocuous and serious crime. This pressurised the government in making amendments. It has been seen in various cases that a juvenile was taking undue advantage of the lenient and friendly trial system made the parliament. That’s why an amendment was passed wherein “minors between the ages of 16 and 18 years accused of heinous crimes to be treated as adults.” (Juvenile Justice Bill,2015). This amendment was also promulgated and fasten due to the Nirbhaya Rape case where one of the accused was a juvenile. In 2016, for the first time a juvenile was tried as an adult for raping a girl which was done in a “planned manner“.This is the first order in a rape case since the amendment in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. As per section 2(33) of the Act, “heinous offences“ include the offences for which minimum punishment under IPC or any other law for the time being in force is imprisonment for seven years or more.
Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) is constituted in each district for exercising the powers and discharging its functions relating to juveniles/children in conflict with law. The JJB will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult. Similarly, Child Welfare Committee (CWC), deal with those children who are 'in need of care and protection' i.e. children from deprived and marginalized sections of society as well as those with different needs and vulnerabilities and aims at determining institutional care for children in need of care and protection and their rehabilitation, reintegration, and restoration.
It is very important also know the statistics of the same. The National Crime Records Bureau's data shows that in the past decade, the rate of juvenile offences has steadily increased. In 2004, the rate for juvenile crime was 1.77 incidents per lakh of population. It had risen to 2.58 by 2013. It is looked upon that Mumbai and Delhi are one main cities which showcase the most amount of juvenile crimes. In 2019, the biggest proportion of juveniles accused of hard crimes like murder and burglary is from Maharashtra, as per national crime records bureau (NCRB) data. But it is seen that there has been a marginal decline in cases in Maharashtra and it is recorded that 116 cases of juveniles accused of murder in 2017 and its was 130 in 2016.
Experts say the dip in cases is mostly marginal, and may have to do with deterrence brought into the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, allowing for juveniles in the 16-18 age group involved in “heinous offences” to be tried as adults as mentioned above. The reason Maharashtra is so crime prone is due to the reform system in the state. It is broken and juvenile remand and observation homes are often breeding grounds for a hardening of criminal attitudes among minors. The reason for the same experts say are the downward spiral of life aggravated by poverty, dysfunctional families and, importantly, a breakdown in the juvenile reform system. It is also due to juveniles sent to remand homes don’t get rehabilitated. But they come out to be professionals.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has revealed a shocking fact that there has been a vast increase in recidivism and its tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend among juveniles than in adults in the state from 2016 to 2018. While there was a slight dip in the percentage of recidivism among minors in 2017, the rate shot up from 3.15 per cent in 2017 to 11.16 per cent in 2018.
NCRB data states that while 7,712 juveniles were arrested in 2016, the number drastically shot up in the succeeding year to 20,560 and again dipped to 9,683 juveniles being arrested in 2018. While in 2016, only 382 minors turned to crime after being arrested once, the number of repeat offenders who were arrested and convicted kept increasing with 649 and 1,081 in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Mumbai was among the top three metropolitan cities in the country in terms of number of juveniles in conflict with the law. While Delhi has topped this list, reporting upwards of 2,000 cases each year from 2016 to 2019, Mumbai came in third with 611 cases of juveniles in conflict with the law recorded in 2019. Mumbai, juveniles in conflict with the law made up for 8.9 per cent of all such cases registered across the country in 2019.
While minors were booked in 110 cases of hurt and grievous hurt in Mumbai, they were also booked in 138 cases of theft and 57 cases of robbery as well as 33 cases of rash driving.
The NCRB also collated data on the background of these juveniles; 636 resided with parents, 45 with guardians, and 75 were homeless.
The government is taking even a marginal increase in juvenile crime as a cause for concern and is committed to tackle it effectively through social and educational reforms. Child welfare officers have been appointed at police stations to deal with juvenile crime. There are 69 observation and protection homes. Out of these, 18 are operated by the government and 51 are private.
Government data shows crimes by juveniles — specially rape and abduction of women — has seen an exponential rise in the past decade. While rape by juveniles has recorded a 143% spurt, abduction of women has jumped by 380% even though overall rise in juvenile crimes recorded under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been only 50% against figures for 2002. Even theft (64.5%) and murder (86.4%) have recorded smaller jumps compared to rape and abduction by juveniles.
It has also been observed that the share of teens — aged between 16 and 18 — in juvenile crimes has steadily increased. From 48.7% in 2002, it has gone up to 66.5% in 2012. In 2011, it stood at 63.9%.
Maharashtra, in particular, has had a poor show as far as controlling juvenile crimes are concerned. With 4,570 cases of juvenile crimes, Maharashtra was second
In cases of rape by juveniles too, Maharashtra was among top five states in 2012 with 89 cases, next only to Madhya Pradesh (249), UP (110) and Rajasthan (102). Delhi — notorious for its attitude towards women and infamous for the December 16, 2012 gang rape involving a minor accused — recorded 57 rapes by juveniles last year.