Children are believed to be the gifts of God and are the hopes for the future of India. It is considered essential to provide them maximum opportunities in a healthy environment to ensure that they grow physically and mentally strong, and become morally responsible citizens of India.
However, due to reasons hard to explain, a few children grow as rebels and engage in criminal activities which are known as juvenile crimes. According to the figures of National Crime Records Bureau, the juvenile crime rate has increased to an alarming 47%, from 22740 cases in 2010 to 33526 in 2014.
• December 16, 2012 – 23-year-old girl, Nirbhaya, was abducted, brutally raped and murdered in a moving bus in south Delhi. Of the 4 accused, one was a juvenile.
• November 19, 2013 – A group of 5 minors, after escaping from a Juvenile Home, murdered a jeweller’s wife at Mayur Vihar, Noida and fled with a loot of 50 kg silver and 10 lakhs cash from the house.
• October 17, 2013 - An infant was kidnapped and raped by two juveniles in Nangloi, West Delhi.
• August 22, 2013 – A 22-year-old photojournalist was gang raped by 5 persons inside the deserted Shakti Mills Compound, South Mumbai. One of the rapists was a juvenile.
• December 24, 2015 – Three juveniles started firing indiscriminately, killing a policeman and critically injuring their target who was a criminal himself. This happened at the Karkardooma Court Complex in East Delhi.
• February 4, 2016 – 17-year-old boy, released for his good behaviour from a juvenile home, strangled an aged woman in BK Dutt Colony, South Delhi.
• March 24, 2016 – A doctor was beaten to death by four juveniles in Vikaspuri, West Delhi.
• April 6, 2016 – Two juveniles shot dead a cab driver, dumped the body and fled with the car in Mundka, West Delhi.
It is very disturbing to note that over 50% of juvenile crimes are related to sex offenses. There were 8676 cases of rape or assault on women committed by juveniles. With the increasing number of juvenile crimes, the safety of women is indeed a very big threat. According to NCRB, Juvenile criminals, aged between 16 and 18, were responsible for more than 60% of the crimes against minors. In Tamil Nadu, the statistics state that the majority of the young offenders live with their parents, so the general perception that only homeless children tend to grow as law offenders is false.
As per law, an adult can face a life term if convicted of rape. However, for juveniles (under 18), they were tried by the Juvenile Justice Board and sent to a juvenile home for three years for the same rape offense.
After the Nirbhaya rape and murder case, Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (Care and Protection of Children) was passed by the Government of India, replacing the existing Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. As per the new law, juveniles aged above 16 who are involved in heinous crimes can be tried in the court of law as adults. As per the previous law, juveniles below 18 cannot be tried as adults. The new Act came into force on January 15, 2016.
As per the previous Juvenile law, youngsters even after committing serious crimes had the liberty of walking out free after three years. One senior police officer from Delhi had even commented that police force was helpless while tackling juvenile criminals, as the punishment for their crimes was negligible and the younger criminals were well aware that their age was at their side to get away from their wrong doings.
The present Juvenile Justice Act 2015 does not give such liberties as the age limit is 16 for juvenile crimes and the criminals above 18 will be treated in the same way as in the case of other adult criminals. This should certainly produce a sense of fear in the minds of the younger ones before they commit any serious crimes.
The reduction of age limit from 18 to 16 for juvenile crimes is, therefore, a change that should be considered as a welcoming change. What is your call?