The Juvenile Justice System is one of the most debated topic in current condition of India. The juveniles are participating actively in the crimes which lead eminent persons to think for amending the laws regarding the Juvenile Justice Act. The current problem India is facing that, the law is insufficient for giving punishment to the Juvenile, according to the crime committed. But the development of this act is not new in our society. The process of Juvenile Justice System was started in the time of British Period. The Juvenile Justice System was the direct consequence of the reforms and the developments in the Western Ideas. In America, Haley vs Ohio[1] and Gallegos vs Colorado[2] the admissibility of a child was questioned and Kent vs United States[3] considered the requirements for a valid waiver of the exclusive jurisdiction of the juvenile courts. Though these cases related to certain restricted aspects, they mistakably indicated that constitutional safeguards were not for the adults.[4]


Juvenile is a child who unlike an adult person, having not attained prescribed age, cannot be held liable for his criminal act. The age criteria for being a juvenile vary from country to country, state to state.   In ancient India, a parent was supposed not to punish a child who is under five years of age for any offence.  As per the law then prevailing a children of such tender age should be nursed and educated with love and affection only. After the age of five, punishment may be given in some suitable form such as physical chastisement or rebuke by the parents, towards the later half of the childhood, punishment should be gradually withdrawn and replaced by advice. From the age of sixteen upwards sons and daughters should be treated as friends by the parents. Some Smritis, like the Brahd-Yama and the Sankha say that a boy over five and less than eleven, if guilty of some Patakas such as drinking Sura, has not to undergo penance personally but his brother, father or other relations or friends have to undergo for him and that if a ‘child is less than five, then whatever the act may be, it is not deemed to be a crime nor a sin and the child is consequently not liable to any punishment or prayaschita.  The Roman Laws stated that a child under seven years was incapable of crime. Boys from seven to fourteen and girls from seven to twelve (pre-puberty age) were considered partially responsible and the punishment left to the discretion of the Praetor. 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. JJ (C & P) Act, 2000 however, provided a uniform age of 18 years for boys and girls[5].


This tension of rights was turned basically for the welfare of a child. For the first time the shift was noticed in United Nations. In this UN Declaration of the rights of child 1958 started for securing the rights of the child, regarding the special treatment and care to the child. With this on the other hand UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985(The Beijing Rules) started to work on accountability of exercise of discretion relating to children[6]

The first legislation on juvenile justice in India came in 1850 with the Apprentice Act 1850 which required that children between the ages of 10-18 convicted in courts to be provided vocational training as part of their rehabilitation process. This act was transplanted by the Reformatory Schools Act, 1897 subsequently provided that children up to age of 15 may be sent to reformatory cell, and later the Juvenile Justice Act 1986 provided a uniform mechanism of Juvenile Justice. This act was replaced by Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000.

The Act was. in force in most of the States, especially in those States where Children Acts were in operation. The Act has since been repealed by the Apprentices Act, 1961 {Jain, S.N.,1979)[7].


Juvenile Justice Act, 1986

In fact the indigenous thinking on Juvenile Justice has been keeping abreast with the global trends in this field. With the adoption of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the administration of the Juvenile Justice, India was the first country to evolve its system in the light of the principles enunciated therein. Of course, the other objectives were to Jay down a uniform legal framework for Juvenile Justice, to provide towards a specialised approach towards the prevention and control of juvenile delinquency, to speii out the machinery and infrastructure for Juvenile Justice operations, to establish norms and standards for the administration of Juvenile Justice, to develop appropriate linkages and coordination between the formal system and voluntary agencies and to constitute special offences in relation to juveniles and to prescribe punishment thereof[8].

In order to realise this goal, the Act imbibes the essential elements of all the due processes, parens patriae and participatmy models (Singh, H., 2001 ). The new law undoubtedly places an onerous duty on the state to appropriately harness the resources from various sectors of socio-economic development in ensuring the well-being and welfare of juveniles and a chance to recover if they happen to falter[9].

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000

The JJ Act 1986 required that the pre-existing system built around the implementation of the then available Children’s Acts be restructured. However, due to the absence of a national consensus on the time frame for such a restructuring, the steps taken by most of the State Governments were still heavily short of the proclaimed goals. In order to rationalise and standardise the approach towards juvenile justice in keeping with the relevant provisions of the Constitution of India and International obligations in this regard, the Government of lndia (re)enacted the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of the Children) Act, 2000. For this a Working Group was set up (failures in the implementation of the Juvenile Justice System are summarized in the literature review, seep. 40-42).

The Act with all additional inputs has been enforced since April1, 2001, to deal with the children within its purview[10].

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2014

 Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2014 aims to replace existing the Indian juvenile delinquency law i.e. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, so that juvenile criminals in the age group of 16–18 can be tried as adults for serious crimes. It was passed on 7 May 2015 by the Lok Sabha unanimously and it is now pending in the Rajya Sabha. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2014 will allow a Juvenile Justice Board, which would include psychologists and sociologists, to decide whether a juvenile criminal in the age group of 16–18 should tried as an adult or not. The bill introduced concepts from the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption, 1993 which were missing in the previous act. The bill also seeks to make the adoption process of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children more streamlined.

 Objective of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2014 are:

 To ensure that every child enjoys his Rights.

 To stay on protection and care of children without facing harassment or abuse.

 To ensure swiftly and productively reintegrated into the society in case he was found to be in conflict with law.

 To streamlining the central adoption agency[11]


Juvenile delinquency is a tremendous burden on society and keeping in mind the present situation, it can be said that the number of crimes being committed by the juveniles is increasing and is to be checked. The crimes are sometimes of heinous nature like murder, rape, robbery. Age must not be a sole criterion to award a lenient punishment to the offender.

New laws are been made every new day amendments are made to existing laws after the Delhi gang rape in 2012 Government made some amendments and inserted Section 376A and Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code which provides imposition of death penalty on those who are convicted of rape. In contrast to this, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 only imposes only a maximum sentence of 3 years without the reference to the nature committed. It is not justified to let the convicted persons to get off with such leniency.

We cannot afford the misuse of present legislations at the hands of offenders. It is not only unsafe for the victims but also create unsafe surrounding. It is important to differentiate minor delinquents from the habitual or hard core delinquents. Many serious steps has to be taken by the government to grade the nature of offences should be redeemed under this Act for the benefit of the society. It seems rather unreasonable to impose the same punishment to the juveniles in the conflict with law, irrespective of the nature and seriousness of the crime committed by them. A petty theft cannot be compared with the offence of murdering someone. Heinous crimes of rare nature are a class of their own and hence should not be considered akin to petty crimes.

As tempted as I am to say that offenders committing offences of such gravity, irrespective of whether they are juvenile or adult should be harshly punished, it seems this is not the ideal ;solution to the problem. One shocking incident should not result in adaption of measures which might later emerge counter-productive. For instance, in the James Bulger case of 1993 in UK where two 11-year old charged with murdering a toddler had been tried in an adult court and sentenced to minimum of 8 years of imprisonment which was later increased to 10 years.  Indian Legislators should not make a similar mistake due to public pressure and need to make a well thought out decision. However, the past incidents and increasing reports of youth crime do indicate the need for a change. The youth crime rate in India may not be as large as in other countries however; the same is also not going down.

[1] 332 US 596 ; 92 L ed 224(1948)

[2] 370 US 49 ; 8 L ed 2d 325(1962)

[3]  383 US 541 ; 16 L ed 2d 84 (1962)


[5] Available on the site  http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/7809/9/09_chapter%202.pdf


[7] Available on the site  http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/7809/9/08_chapter%201.pdf

[8] ibid

[9] Id note 9

[10] Id note 9

[11] Available on http://journal.lawmantra.co.in/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/73.pdf


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