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Rights of Juvenile in Juvenile Justice system in India

Who Are Juveniles?

Juveniles are the person who has not attained the age of majority that means who is below 18 and has committed a crime whether it is heinous or not. They are also known as juvenile offenders or juvenile delinquents. For example, the minimum smoking age in India is 18 and people below that are called minors or underage. The juvenile cases are heard in juvenile court, a type of civil court with different rules than an adult criminal court. However in certain cases, older juveniles can be tried as adults in criminal court.

Difference Between Juvenile And Child

A person under the age of full legal obligation and responsibility is a minor or a person who is below the legal age of eighteen years is minor. A child who is accused of crime and is not tried as adult and is sent to Child Care Center whereas juvenile is a person between age group of 16-18 years.

Why Do They Need Justice System?

In ancient times there was a presumption that the juveniles should be dealt leniently because there exists a system of thought which says- Young people have a habit of reacting impulsively which is known to be the aggressive approach. In last few years, it is observed that the crime rate has increased mostly which are done by children under the age of 15-17 significantly.

The psychology behind the commitment of crimes are upbringing, lack of education, aggressive nature, dominant masculinity, etc. In late 1960's the government passed an act in the parliament called Children Act of 1960 that aimed to provide care, protection, maintenance, welfare, training, education, and rehabilitation and development of neglected or delinquent children per se.

The act was created with a certain set of goals. Its primary purpose was to give boundaries and help for local authorities and/or other entities to better regulate official intervention in the interests of children. But in the light of recent crime events in our country the Indian law maker's hands are forced to make some compelling laws about juveniles as well. As a result, they made the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986, Juvenile Justice Act 2000 then Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and recently Juvenile Justice Act 2021 which was passed by both Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha.

The bill contains provisions related to children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection. Once former Chief Justice of India, Justice V.K. Krishna Iyer stated that:
We need penal code because the child is the father of a man if we're neglecting the underdevelopment in children, then we would be guilty of many faults and errors related to abandoning our children.

We all remember the devastating incident of Nirbhaya Delhi Gang Rape Case which happened on December 16, 2012 which left whole nation on shock. Many questions arised that time and reason of debate was the involvement of accused who was about to get 18. The involvement of minor in such heinous crime forced the law makers to introduce a new law and thus the Indian Parliament came up with a new law which is Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2015. The law replaced the old juvenile laws and has introduced some remarkable changes and in which one of the changes was that the age group of 16-18 years should be tried as an adult if the person has done some heinous crime which is unpardonable.

Current Juvenile Justice System

As per current juvenile justice system, which follows the bill passed in 2015, that is Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 has been passed by Parliament of India after a lot of protest, argument and controversy. It replaces the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 and allows that juveniles age group of 16-18 who has committed heinous crime to be tried as adults. It was passed on 7 May 2015 by Lok Sabha and 22 December 2015 by Rajya Sabha.

The bill will allow Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committees to decide whether the juvenile accused should be treated as an adult or not. The bill adds the adoption procedures for an orphan and abandoned children. Recently, the Lok Sabha passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill,2021 which strengthen the provisions for protection and adoption of children.

Some experts and statistics says that there was need of the amendment as the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) audit of Child Care Institutions (CCIs) in 2020, 90% of which are run by NGOs, found that 39% CCIs were not registered, even after 2015 amendment was brought in. The act provides that any crime or an offence which is unpardonable with imprisonment between 3 to 7 years to be cognizable (where a person can be arrested without warrant) and non-bailable.

Claim Of Juvenility

The claim of juvenility is to be decided by Juvenile Justice Board. It will decide the claim before the court proceedings but the claim can be raised before court at any point of time. The Board had to consider Rule 12 of Juvenile Justice Rules, 2007.

Here are some cases in which people have claimed juvenility during and even after disposal of proceedings:
  1. Kulai Ibrahim V/S State Of Coimbatore:

    In this case it was observed that the accused has a right to raise it's juvenility at any point of time during the trail or even after that under the section 9 of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
  2. Satbir Singh & Others V/S State Of Haryana:

    In this case Supreme Court again repeated that for the purpose resolution it doesn't matter whether the accused is juvenile or not, the date of birth will be taken into consideration which is recorded in the school records.

Rights Of Juvenile Offenders

  1. Right to a lawyer
  2. Right to cross-examine witnesses.
  3. Right to provide evidence to support one's own case.
  4. Right to remain silent.
  5. Right to an appeal.
  6. Right to a transcript of a trail (written copy of the trail).
  7. Right to have fair and speedy trails.
  8. Right to have no juries in juvenile cases.
  9. Right to have parents and guardians present at hearing.
Children are the valued assets they need to be tend and protected. We all know that the juvenile offenders are increasing rapidly, and that can be because of lack of education, aggressive nature or etc. The children need to have some basic rights which can help them to have a better future. There are lot of juveniles who are unable to afford a lawyer and these acts help them to enjoy legal remedies. In our Indian Constitution every individual is equal before eyes of law thus everyone has a right to defend or protect itself with the help of law whether it is a plaintiff or a defendant, adult or minor, girl or boy the law never discriminate.

Written By: Anita Mishra, BA-LLB (hons.) - Jagran Lakecity University

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