The word “juvenile delinquency” has been differently analyzed by penologists. But generally speaking the term refers to a large variety of disapproved behaviour of children and adolescents which the society does not approve of, and for which some kind of diminishment, punishment of corrective measure is justified in the public interest.
Thus, the term has a very extensive meaning and includes rebellious and hostile behaviour of children and their attitude of indifference towards society.
Certain other acts such as begging, vagrancy, obscenity, loitering, pilfering, drinking, gambling etc. which vicious persons quite often commit are also included within the meaning of the term “juvenile delinquency”.
It may therefore be said that a juvenile is an adolescent person between childhood and manhood or womanhood, as the case may be, who indulges in some sort of anti-social behaviour, which if not checked, may turn him into a potential offender.
It may be noted that a great variety of acts included within the term “juvenile delinquency” are otherwise non-criminal in nature and are freely tolerated if done in by adults.
For example smoking, drinking or absenting one self from home may be permissible conducts for adults but the same are treated as delinquent acts if committed by children or adolescents.
Statistics on juvenile delinquency in India reveal that the problem is not so tense here as in other advanced countries.
This may be due to a variety of reasons such as greater family affiliation and parental control and persistence of religious convictions and moral precepts in Indian society.
Nevertheless, the impact of western civilization and temptation for luxuries and pompous life greatly disturbed the modern Indian youths. With the result there has been a considerable growth in crimes committed by juveniles.
The Indian law contains a more precise and clear-cut definition of juvenile delinquency. It provides that any violation of existing penal law of the country committed by a child less than 16 years of age and a girl less than 18 years shall be an act of juvenile delinquency for the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
The special provision which exist in the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code in relation to the juvenile offenders providing for their special treatment and producer are stated below-
(a) Sections 82 and 83 of the Indian Penal Code contain provision relating to the extent of criminal liability of children belonging to different age groups. A child below the age of seven is dole inscape, that is, incapable of committing a crime. Similarly, a child between seven and thirteen years of age has only a limited criminal liability.
The contention the nature and consequences of their act due to lack of sufficient maturity and understanding. It would, therefore, be grossly unjust to treat them at par with adult offenders. (b) Section 360 of the Code Criminal Procedure, 1973 provides that a person below twentyone years of age is known as the ‘first offender’ and is not to be tried in a criminal court through the ordinary procedure.
He is to be dealt with and corrected through special methods of treatment under the law. The object is to segregate the young offender from hardened criminals so that he is not exposed to recidivist tendencies.
(c) Section 27 of the Code of Criminal Procedure further suggests that a lenient treatment to juveniles has already received statutory recognition in the Indian law.
The section provides that if a person below sixteen years of age commits an offence other than one punishable with death or imprisonment for life, he should be awarded a lenient punishment depending upon his previous history, character and circumstances which led him to commit the crime.
His sentence can further be commuted for good behaviour during the term of his imprisonment.
With a view to preventing the juvenile offender from stigmatization and embarrassment, the proceedings instituted against him are neither published for publicised. His name, address or identity is not disclosed and general public is excluded from witnessing the trial.
The delinquent’s parents may, however, be allowed to attend the trial. The object of these closed-door proceedings is to keep off the delinquent from rigours of procedural law and make the trial simple and less formal.
The guiding principles relating to the treatment of children and young delinquents are now contained in two Central Asia, namely, the Children Act, 1960 and the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958.
The latter Act provides for release of juvenile offenders on probation. The basic assumption underlying these legislative measures presuppose that youngsters are naughty is nature and therefore society’s attitude towards them should be one of tolerance and generosity.
That apart, the mental attitude of juvenile delinquent at the time of committing crime certainly differs from that of a confirmed adult criminal. It would therefore be basically unjust to punish the two alike.
The juvenile offenders are apprehended by police but only ion report of a Probation Officer. The Probation Officer makes his report on the basis of investigation made into the previous history and character of the offender and the circumstances leading to his act of criminality.
Thereafter, the young offender is produced before a lady honorary Magistrate for an informal private hearing. She explains to the juvenile the charge for which he or she is brought before her and also asks whether he/she confesses or denies the charge framed against him/her? During the course of this informal hearing the lady magistrate resorts to affectionate methods for extracting confession from the offender.
It is pertinent to note that the process of extracting confession from offenders is clearly against the accepted legal norms.
The entire proceedings and the records of the trial are kept strictly confidential so as to save the delinquent from stigmatization. If no case is established against the offender, he is discharged forthwith.
In case he is found guilty, he is booked to a detention home for readjustment. These detention homes for juvenile offenders provide for a disciplined life with sufficient recreational facilities and delinquent treatment for physical and mental defects.
The conviction in a juvenile court shall not entail any disqualification on juvenile offender.
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