You are on page 1of 6

Research Paper Efficacy of Increased Age Prescription for Male Child under Juvenile Justice Act, 2000: Indian

Context

This research paper is based upon a research project carried by the author. The said Research Project dealt with the issue of juvenile delinquency wherein scope of the project was delimited to the issue of prescribing cut-off age for a male juvenile in context to India. The criminal justice system in India provides different frameworks for adult offenders and for juvenile offenders. This distinction is made on the premise that a juvenile is not mature enough to comprehend & understand the consequences of his act. Thats why a juvenile offender is dealt differently from an adult offender. The same philosophy is reflected in U.N. document1 which says that a child needs special treatment in a criminal justice system because of mental immaturity. Hence, criminal justice system for the juveniles in India is a unique system which is supported by different rules, provisions, & procedures as laid down under Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. While the Indian Penal Code uses cut-off age and concept of maturity of mind, both, to decide whether a person should be held responsible for his act or not; the Juvenile Justice Act uses the first method only, i.e., cut-off age. Hence, an important issue is to decide the cut -off age to declare a person to be a juvenile.

Issue of Juvenile Delinquency In India, the juvenile delinquency has become a major law & order problem for the law implementing agencies, especially for the police officials and officials of juvenile homes. The existing legal provisions seem to be ineffective in controlling the rising trend of juvenile delinquency. It was further fuelled by the amendment Act of 2000 through which the cut-off
1

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (The Beijing Rules) recognizes that the young, owing to their early stage of human development, require particular care and assistance with regard to physical, mental and social development, and acquire legal protection in conditions of peace, freedom, dignity and security

age for a male juvenile was increased from 16 years to 18 years. The said amendment was carried on the basis of a consideration that a male person of 17-18 years is not mature enough to be called an adult; but, it seems to have backfired when we see the present day ground realities. During the research project, it was found that majority of the juveniles who are in conflict with law belong to poor socio-economic background. A large section of this group either has no school education, or if they have school education, it is up-to primary level only. An interesting thing to note here is that despite of having poor educational background, this group of juveniles has knowledge and awareness, both, of legal provisions and protections given under criminal justice system for them. The factors that play important role, in negative sense, in dealing with the issue of juvenile delinquency are, parental negligence, friend circle, lure for money, name & fame, and no fear of police and courts. These factors play different roles in different age groups, e.g., no fear of police and courts play no role in encouraging a child belonging to age group of 10-16 years for committing an offence, but, the same factor plays an important role in encouraging a juvenile belonging to age group of 17-18 years for committing an offence.

Objectives of Amendment carried in Sec. 2 (k) of Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 Another important area of this project study was to see whether the objectives of carrying amendment in Sec. 2(k) of Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 have been achieved or not. It is found that India has failed in achieving those objectives. One of the objectives of the said amendment was to keep the target group, i.e., juveniles belonging to age groups of 17-18 years, away from the adult criminals who are admitted in prisons. It was found that the influencing factor of getting into contact with other offenders play a significant role outside the prisons as well. It was found that 12% of the respondent group of juveniles (who were not in conflict with law) and 34% of the respondent group of juveniles (who were in conflict with law) comes into personal contact with someone who has committed an offence. This person may be an adult person, or may be a juvenile; this coming into contact of both the groups may or may not influence a juvenile to behave defiantly, but,

the fact is that the juveniles come into contact with an offender in his social circle. This factor may be termed as external factor in failure of achieving objectives of the said amendment. But, if we take notice of other findings of this study that how the juveniles belonging to age group of 17-18 years have become more prone in getting involved in deviant/criminal activities, we may infer that the objectives of Sec. 2 (k) of the Act of 2000 have definitely contributed a lot in their own failure. This finding of the project study may be supported with reports of National Crime Records Bureau. The said tables indicate that the no. of incidences of apprehension of persons belonging to age group of 16-18 years during the year 2001-2011 has increased at higher rate if we compare this data with data of the period belonging to the year 1989 to the year 1999. It is important to point out here that the demarcation of these two periods of 1989-1999 and 20012011 is made on the basis of year of amendment which was year 2000. Hence, it may be said that the objectives of the said amendment have contributed in its own failure.

Prospects of bringing Reforms in the Behaviour of Juveniles Interaction of the juveniles with those factors that are responsible for their becoming deviant must be minimized in order to bring reforms in the behavior and attitude of the juveniles. Parental guidance along-with some institutional support, like, giving the juveniles opportunities to learn and earn can prevent a juvenile from getting in conflict with law. The objective of such steps should be to divert energy of the juveniles towards constructive activities. Once a juvenile becomes a juvenile who is in conflict with law, therein starts his interactions with various authorities and other juveniles. His rights are violated when he is given physical torture by the police officials; his rights are violated when he is admitted into juvenile homes and he is welcomed by the other juveniles with physical beatings; his rights are further violated when the facilities at juvenile homes are not up-to the standards as prescribed under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. These factors aggravate his anguish with the whole system, and the chances of his being reformed become very bleak. Hence, it can be said that these factors play negative role in bringing reforms in attitude and behaviour of the target group.

Issue of Age of Maturity of a Male Person An important area of this project study was to deal with the issue of age of maturity. It was found that the age of attaining maturity, physical & mental, both, has decreased in our contemporary society during last few decades. Now, a male person of 15-16 years of age is considered mature enough to comprehend and understand the consequences of his acts. This view is based upon the responses given by all the four respondent groups of juveniles who are not in conflict with law, juveniles who are in conflict with law, juvenile welfare officers, and officials at juvenile homes. The attainment of age of maturity, physical traits and mental development, both, by a male person in our society has decreased in last few decades; and the reasons for this are: imparting education, role played by media, change in living standards, cultural transformation, etc. Now, a male person of 15-16 years of age is considered mature enough to comprehend and understand the consequences of his acts. The issue of settling the cut-off age for a male juvenile in our criminal justice system must be reexamined while taking care of the present day ground realities; and views of those who actually deal with juvenile offenders must be made part of this task. Due to role played by these factors coupled with failure of parents in controlling behaviour of their child belonging to age group of 17-18 years, juveniles belonging to this age group have the maximum proximity to get involved in criminal activities. It is important to point out here that the legislation in India was contemplating to reduce the age of consent for sex under criminal law from 18 years to 16 years.2 Though, this amendment was not carried, but, it may be inferred that the proposed amendment was based on the premise that the age of maturity, here maturity may be meant as mental maturity, has decreased in contemporary society.

Issue of Age Prescription for Considering a Male Person to be a Juvenile The most important area of this project study was to deal with the issue of age prescription for considering a male person to be a juvenile. If we reach at a conclusion that the age of maturity
2

As per news report published in Times of India, Ed. New Delhi (p. 1, dt. 3rd March, 2013)

in a male person in our society has decreased in last few decades; if we reach at a conclusion that a male person belonging to age group of 15-16 years is mature enough to comprehend and understand the consequences of his acts; if we give credence to the opinions of important stakeholders, juvenile welfare officers and officials at juvenile homes, who deal with the issue of juvenile delinquency; it can be said that the issue of age prescription for deciding the cut-off age for declaring a male person to be a juvenile must be reconsidered in light of all these perspectives. An inference is drawn in this project report that the criminal justice system that used to exist during the period 1989 to 1999 was able in controlling the element of deviancy among the age group of 16-18 years, but, the present day criminal justice system has failed in doing so. It was further inferred that the increasing age prescription for a male child from 16 years to 18 years has contributed for this to a large extent. This finding of this project study may further be supported by the provisions laid down under United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Administration of Juvenile Justice (The Beijing Rules). These rules3 give scope for taking factors, like, socio-economic factors and cultural factors, into consideration for deciding the age prescription for a male juvenile. The definition of a juvenile is given under Rule 2.2 of the said document4 wherein no cut-off age for a juvenile is prescribed. Commentary of the said rule further says that age limits will depend on, and are explicitly made dependent on, each respective legal system, thus fully respecting the economic, social, political, cultural and legal systems of Member States. This commentary further says that this makes for a wide variety of ages coming under the definition of juvenile, ranging from 7 years to 18 years or above. Such a variety seems inevitable in view of the different national legal systems and does not diminish the impact of these Standard Minimum Rules. These rules, as stated under Beijing Rules, dont bind our criminal justice system to keep the age prescription for a male juvenile at 18 years.

Rule 1.5 of the Beijing Rules says that these rules shall be implemented in the context of economic, social and cultural conditions prevailing in each Member State. 4 Rule 2.2: For purposes of these Rules, the following definitions shall be applied by Member States in a manner which is compatible with their respective legal systems and concepts: (a) A juvenile is a child or young person who, under the respective legal systems, may be dealt with for an offence in a manner which is different from an adult;

Since, objectives of this project were merely diagnostic in nature, thats why no suggestion, except that the appropriate functionary authorities of the State should reconsider the issue of age prescription for a male juvenile, has been made on our part.