Juvenile justice is commonly understood as an idea of mildness and an alternative system of dealing with children through laws, the main emphasis being protective care, reformation, rehabilitation and a chance to change. The concept of ‘Juvenile Offence’ in India is confined to the violation of the ordinary penal laws of the country by boys and girls up to the age of eighteen years. Thus, it means a juvenile offender is a person who just escapes from charges he would have been imposed if he had crossed the eighteenth year mark. The Juvenile Judiciary system considers the illegal activities as ‘Mistakes’ for minors and ‘Crimes’ for majors.
In India, the 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. The comic part is whatever the minors do; the maximum sentence stipulated for an adolescent criminal is three years - no matter how brutal or heinous the crime is. Though there is a rationale behind this, ain’t these criminals escaping?
Mistakes are those which could be corrected. What about Crimes? Now, what comes under mistakes and what under crimes? One fellow in Juvenile Home Coimbatore had murdered his schoolmate. The fight between students over a cricket match rose up as a heated debate and ended up in a murder. The case diary tells the victim was smashed by a rock piece that led to death. The rest of the story was shocking. The assumption of it being a mistake ends here. He dragged the body over a mile into the woods and burnt the victim using petrol. The Juvenile Justice Act presumes this incident to be a mistake. The criminal behavior of this teenager is considered mild and the victim as a child’s toy. This is where the common man gets confused about the integrity of Law his nation withholds.
It is very important to note that 66% of the total crimes and 98% of the violent crimes accounted by the minors are committed by juveniles above 16 years of age. What do you think would change the mindsets or maturity level of the boys or girls when they wake up on their 18th birthday that they didn’t possess on their birthday eve? It should not be the age that has to be considered but the type of character they possess. A ‘criminal mind’ cannot be purified in a Juvenile Home whereas a ‘criminal by chance’ could be. Childhood experiences are important in the development of criminality. However, not all criminals reveal their own self at the early childhood. Psychiatrists say the reason for a child to commit a crime depends completely on their parents. The way the parents bring up the child determines the way he behaves in the society. If the father is a thief, no wonder if the child turns out to be a cold blooded killer. Our Prime Minister rightly said at the Independence Day speech, “there is a need for parents to take account of their children”.
Many Political parties and Gangsters take advantage of this flexible Juvenile Justice Law. They hire teenagers under 18 to murder their enemies. It is said that there is a group of teenagers under 18 who are ready to take up the charges of murder or rape for someone else, just for a small amount of money. This is absolute mockery to the Indian Law. These people misuse the weak Law and slips right through the fingers.
Crimes against women are the worst part in India. According to NCRB statistics in 2013, the rise in crimes against women committed by juveniles was highest in cases where the modesty of a woman was outraged (132.3%) followed by word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman (70.5%) and rape (60.3%). The news that the Juvenile convicted of Nirbhaya rape and murder case gets released this December has made a frown in the face of a common Indian. An adult convicted of rape faces life term, and death sentence in case of repeat offence whereas the accused under 18 years gets sentenced to three years imprisonment or less. Many Indians are unhappy with this and want the boy to receive the same sentence as the adult criminals in the case. Similarly in August 2013 Shakti Mill case at Mumbai, in which a 22-year old photojournalist was raped, by four adults and a juvenile - the juvenile got just three years at a children’s correction home at Nashik.
Law! What is its purpose? Has it been implemented to punish the criminals or to reform them. Why does law sent a criminal to jail? Is it to reform them or to keep the society safe without them? Indian Judiciary is logical in implementing the Juvenile Justice laws thereby rehabilitating and restoring the young minds but it proves to be a very big loop hole when the mob takes advantage of it. Our basic concept of Jurisprudence that, “the 100 culprits may let go free but no innocent should be punished” mocks right at the face of Lady Justice.
The Laws have to be changed. The criminals have to be punished. The State should be clean. India should change!