Minimum Age if Criminal Responsibility or MACR is the age below which a person
cannot be held criminally responsible. This is a form of defence known as excuse
so that defendants falling within the definition of an "infant" are excluded
from criminal liability for their actions, if at the relevant time; they had not
reached an age of criminal responsibility. These offenders are commonly referred
as 'juvenile offender' under the law.
In India A boy or girl under 18 years of age is a juvenile according to the
Juvenile Justice Code Act,2000. The age of criminal responsibility is 7 years
set by Section 82 of The Indian Penal Code 1860. Neither Capital punishment nor
life imprisonment without the possibility of release can be imposed offender
below 18. Every State has a juvenile Justice Board and a special court to be
dealt with by the juvenile justice Board.
In USA the definition for juveniles (anyone under the age of 18) is same across
the country but the judicial process differs. The age of criminal
responsibility varies between states, being as low as 6 years in South Carolina
and 7 years in 35 states; 11 years is the minimum age for federal crimes, many
states, such as Massachusetts, have special courts set aside to try and convict
juveniles. Others such as Colorado have courts that deal with juvenile cases in
addition to regular one. Juvenile cannot be given the death penalty but can be
awarded life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The Canadian Youth Criminal Justice Act governs the application of
Criminal and correctional law to those 12years old or older, but younger than 18
at the time of committing the offence. Youth aged 14 to 17 may be tried or
sentenced as adults under certain conditions, such as in cases of murder.
Emphasis is placed on rehabilitation and reintegration of the juvenile.
Extrajudicial measures are also used for responding to less serious youth
crimes. Police possess the power to use discretion in deciding whether to issue
a warning, a police caution, or a charge. If the police decide to refer the case
to the courts, the Crown can choose to issue a Crown caution. At times,
community support is also involved, which includes mediating between the victim
The minimum age for criminal responsibility in Pakistan is seven
years. Additionally, section 83 of the Pakistan Pena Code says that nothing is
an offence which is done by a child above seven years of age under the age of
twelve, who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the
nature and consequences of his or her conduct or that occasion.
China's juvenile Criminal justice is in the process of reform and
improvement. Death penalty is not applicable to juvenile cases. The law provides
for protection of defense rights and juvenile criminal cases are not tried
openly, although records remain unsealed. After another double-digit increase in
juvenile arrests in 2003, China's Supreme People's Court began a pilot programme
to establish independence juvenile courts in 18 locations.
Legal revisions are
also set to take effect this year. 'Conditional non-prosecution' practiced in
the West, will be introduced to allow youth who commit minor offenses to avoid
jail time by successfully completing six to 12 months' probation. The sealing of
juvenile criminal records will also be applied nationwide for those who have
been sentenced to less than five years' improvement.
Under the English common law the defence of infancy was expressed as a set of
presumptions in a doctrine known as doli incapax. A child under the age of seven
was presumed incapable of committing a crime. The presumption was conclusive,
prohibiting the prosecution from offering evidence that a child had the capacity
to appreciate the nature and wrongfulness of what they had done.
under seven to fourteen were presumed incapable of committing a crime but the
presumption was rebuttable. The prosecution could overcome the presumption by
proving that the child understood what they were doing and it was wrong. In
fact, capacity was a necessary element of the state's case. If the state failed
to offer sufficient evidence of capacity, the infant was entitled to have the
charges dismissed at the close of the state's evidence.
Doli incapax - position in India
In India, criminal law acknowledges an age line below which children are not
truly capable of crime. Below the age of 7, the Indian Criminal Procedure
considers that children are incapable of having the required cognitive and moral
process to commit a crime. This is absolute immunity. Between the age of 7 and
12, the CrPC provides for presumption of innocence in favour of children, but if
the prosecution can prove and provide evidence for the contrary then the child
can be prosecuted. From 14 to 18 years a child is liable only if he has an
insight into both the legality and punishability of the act. A minor can be
tried as an adult only when a general test is done to ascertain whether the
child had adequate understanding of the consequences of his actions.
Criminal liability of a child under IPC
Section 82 of the Indian Penal Code completely makes an
infant below 7 years of age immune from criminal liability, since a child below
this age is considered doli incapax in law. That is to say a child under such
age cannot form the necessary intention to constitute a crime since he possesses
no adequate discretion or understanding at this age for his deeds.
Thus, if a
child below 7 years of age is charged for committing a crime, the fact that he
was at that time below 7 years of age is ipso facto an answer to the
prosecution. The scope of the immunity granted under this section is wide enough
to exempt a chid not only from prosecution for offences under the special as
well as local laws, as explained under section 40 of the Penal Code.
Act of a child above seven and under twelve of immature understanding
Section 83 of the code provides qualified immunity to a child above seven years
and under twelve years of age. In other words, if it shows that a child within
the age group of 7 to 12 years has not attained the requisite degree of
understanding and maturity to judge the nature and consequences of his conduct,
he is exempted from criminal liability. The presumption of innocence of a child
is based on the principle that 'the younger the child in age, the lesser the
probability of being corrupt'.
This is to say, malice makes up for age, i.e.,
militia supplet aetatem. Hence as age advances the maxim loses force. In the
absence of such proof a child above seven years and under 12 years of age is as
much liable for his deeds as an adult criminal. The maturity of his
understanding can be inferred from the nature of the act and his subsequent
conduct and other allied factors, such as his behaviour, conduct and appearance
For instance, if a child aged nine years picks up a necklace valued at Rs.100
lying on table in his friend's house and immediately sells it for Rs. 20 and
misappropriates the money, these acts show that he was sufficiently mature to
understand the nature and consequence of his deed of theft. Hence, he would not
be protected under this section. His deed would constitute theft within the
meaning of section 378 of the Code. Under the English law a child between the
age of 10 and 14years as against 7 to 12 years under Indian Law enjoys the
privilege of qualified immunity.
On the other hand, a girl aged 10 years who picked up a silver button and gave
it to her mother was not held liable for theft. It was held that these factors
were not sufficient to show maturity on her part to understand the nature of her
In Hiralal Mallick v. State of Bihar 1977
Cr Lj 1921 (SC); AIR1977 SC2236, the
Supreme Court held that a child below 7 years is completely free of any criminal
responsibility but a child between 7 to 12 years of he is qualified to avail the
defence of doli incapax, if it is proved that he has not attained sufficient
maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences of his act. This
presumption may be rebutted by evidence of "mischievous discretion" i.e.,
knowledge that what was done was morally wrong.
The appellant aged 12 years along with his two elder brothers participated in a
concerted action and used a sharp weapon, a sword on the neck of the deceased
to avenge and ran like others. No evidence was led about the youth's feeble
understanding of his action and hence the defence was not allowed and accused
was held liable for the offence.
In Ulla v. King,
(AIR 1950 Ori 261) the accused, a girl about 10 years old was
scolded by her father-in-law and her husband who had attempted to beat her. A
few days after the incident, she struck her husband on his neck with sharp
instrument while he was asleep, which resulted in his death. After the assault
she run away and concealed herself.
Judging from her conduct before and after the incident the court concluded that
she was doli capax, i.e. capable of understanding the nature of the act and so
was held guilty of murder. However, the court remanded her for a reprieve of
sentence instead of seven years considering her age.
Presumption as to Age between Ten and Fourteen is Rebuttable under Common Law
In R v. Gorrie
, (1909) it was held that at common law a child aged between ten
and fourteen is rebuttably presumed incapable of committing an offence. This
presumption is rebutted if the prosecution proves that the child had a
Gorrie, aged thirteen years, and three other schoolboys were playing near their
homes. Gorrie had a penknife, with which he was cutting a wood. Something was
said in fun about Germans, and Gorrie chased one of the boys. The penknife,
which Gorrie happened to have opened in hand at the time, occasioned a trifling
wound in the boy's buttock. The boy did not report the wound consequently died
later of septic poisoning. Gorrie was charged with manslaughter (culpable
In the case of persons under fourteen years of age, the law presumed that they
were not criminally responsible. They were not supposed to have that discretion
which makes them criminally responsible. But in any particular case, if the
prosecution could show that although the accused was under fourteen the act was
done with what was called mischievous discretion, then they could rebut the
presumption that the child was not responsible. If it was an intentional stab,
(move), it would be manslaughter.
Since the boy was under fourteen, the law presumed that he was not responsible
criminally, unless prosecution gives very clear and complete evidence of what
was called mischievous discretion; that meant that they must satisfy that when
the boys did this he knew that he was doing what wrong- not merely what was
wrong, but what was gravely wrong. Since there was no evidence the boy when, as
alleged, he jabbed the other with knife in this horse-play, had any
consciousness that he was doing which was gravely wrong, he is not guilty.
Similarly, in R.v.Runeckles
the Divisional court held that at common law a child
under 14 is presumed not to have reached the age of discretion and is to be
deemed doli incapax. The presumption is rebuttable and burden of rebutting is
On 2nd July, 982, the defendant aged 13, and another girl had a discussion with
the victim in a public place. After the discussion the victim went home, to
which house the defendant and her companion then went. On their arrival at the
home, the front door was opened. The victim was hit by the defendant with a milk
bottle and was then stabbed by the defendant with a broken bottle.
and her companion fled and sought to hide in a garden, when they were
apprehended by a police officer. In those circumstances the justices convicted
the defendant and her companion.
The defendant pleaded before the Divisional
Court that the defendant's conviction must be quashed because of the operation
of the presumption which applies in regard to the acts of the children aged
between 10 and 14; and the prosecution could rebut this presumption only by
showing that the child appreciated that, that which he or she had done was
morally wrong; and that this could not have been done on the fact of this case.
Upholding the conviction, the Court said, that the presumption of doli incapax
had been rebutted, and that this 13 years old girl (who from her statement
seemed of normal intelligence) appreciated that what she did to her victim was a
seriously wrong thing to do. Thus, there was evidence on which one could
concluded that the defendant had mischievous discretion.
Position in England and Wales
In 1998 the Government abolished the principle of doli incapax. This was the
presumption in law that Children aged under 14 did not know the difference
between right and wrong and were therefore not capable of committing an offence.
This presumption could be rebutted for children between aged of 10 to 14 if the
prosecution could satisfy the court that the child knew what he was doing was
seriously wrong, not "merely naughty or mischievous"
The change in the law means that children over the age of 9 can be arrested,
taken to a police station, interviewed and charged with offences. They can be
taken to court and convicted of crimes, receiving a criminal record. It is the
young age of criminality in all Europe. It has been condemned by The United
Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and is held not to be
This change in the law wasn't based upon evidence based research. The government
decided to reform youth justice with the explicit intention to "stop making
excuses for children who offend". A major focus of the reforms was to remove doli incapax, which was achieved by enactment of section 34 of the Crime and
Disorder Act 1998.
Undoubtedly the tragic Jamic Bulger case was a major influence in focusing the
government on the issue of the age of criminality. In the House of Lords
decision of C (A Minor) v. DPP Lord Lowry acknowledged that there were 'popular
and political overtones' which surrounded the abolition.
The shocking killing of 2-year-old Jamie Bulger by two 10-year-olds Jon Venables
and Robert Thompson led to worldwide media attention and two boys were vilified
in the British press. Doli incapax had not had not yet been abolished but the
boys were deemed to know right from wrong and were therefore prosecuted. They
were sentenced to imprisonment at Her Majesty's pleasure with a tariff of 5years
(a minimum period in custody to be served).
This sentence was passed upon the intervention of the Secretary of State, who
set the tariff based on petitions and correspondence from members of the public
and national press coverage endorsing a long or whole-life tariff.
The House of Lords quashed the sentence in 2000, in part due to the fact that it
was deemed that the conduct of the Secretary of State was contrary to the rule
of law. In other words, it was an abuse of executive power to step in and
interfere with the case as a result of public pressure.
Neuroscience suggests that the pre-frontal cortex (responsible for executive
functions, such as problem solving, planning and decision making) is only fully
developed by the age of 25. At 10 old, our ability to fully comprehend the
impact of our actions is simply not present.This is before and adults who are
exposed to the criminal justice system are fare far more likely to suffer from
learning disabilities than those that do not.
In the Bulger case the psychiatrist who assessed Venables said that although he
was chronologically over the age of 10 at the time of killing, he was less
mature as far as psychology of emotional age was concerned.
It is not unusual to see adult defendants with IQs as low as 65 (the average is
100). The ability of a person like this at any age to appreciate the
consequences of their actions is much lower than someone without these
The Centre for Social Justice's "Rule of Engagement: Changing the Heart of Youth
Justice", concluded that there was sufficient body of research that indicated
that early adolescence, a period of marked neurodevelopment immaturity. The law
as it currently stands holds children accountable to the same extent as an adult
but a children's capacity at this age is not equivalent to that of an older
adolescent or adult. As a result, adolescents are particularly prone to risk
taking behaviours which they often grow out of later in life.
Thompson and Venables received substancial custodial sentences. In courts Mr
Justice Morland told them: 'You will be securely detained for very, very many
years until the Home Sceretary is satisfied that you have matured and are fully
rehabilitated and no longer a danger to others'.
There is ample evidence that criminalising children does not reduce future
Venables has continued to offend in adult life.
The case can be compared to a similar crime that occurred in Norway just twenty
months after Bulger killing whereby a young girl was violently killed by two
little boys. In stark contrast to the UK, there was no highly politicised media
campaign condemning the boys and they were dealt with primarily as a welfare
issue. The focus was on reintegrating the boys as much as possible. There have
been no re-offending and no similar cases of extreme violence committed by young
These case were some 20 years ago, in these 20 years the society has changed
very much, along with that maturity and understanding levels of children's has
also gone high. As per the view expressed by UNB Rao, founder chairman, Urivi
Vikram Charitable Trust, which has been working since two decades to prevent
juvenile crimes in India, A 15-year-old of the modern world is seen as matured
and informed as an adult aged 20-25 some 15 years ago. In such cases, mental
growth and age don't go hand in hand."
The policy of treating minors as incapable of committing crimes no longer
reflects modern sensibilities. In many cases it has been seen that some child
has faster mental development than the others. And indeed given the different
speed at which people may develop both physically an intellectually, any form of
explicit age limit is may be arbitrary and irrational. For the reason the mental
state of a person while committing an act is now a major deciding factor in
determining whether or not the act in question is an offence at all.
In these cases, forensic psychology comes to rescue. It works for threat
assessment for schools, child custody evaluations, competency evaluations of
criminal defendants and of the elderly, counselling service to victim to the
crimes, post-traumatic stress disorder and also the delivery and evaluation of
intervention and treatment for juvenile and adult offender. Even though in
several cases the forensic psychology has proved beyond doubt that minors have
not only committed a wrongful act but also have full knowledge of the wrongful
and illegal nature of such act. But in such cases the mere fact that they have
not attained majority���.. acts as a mitigating factor in trails of minors.
Reasons vary for juveniles' getting into varies forms of crime. Impulsive
disorders, peer pressure, disturbed environment, broken family, aggression,
lavish lifestyles and uncontrolled freedom from parents are some factors leading
to a rise of this dangerous trend- which is not limited to India alone.
Add to this, newer problems of unrestrained access to technology and complex
cyber space, and the problem is growing.
Says, clinical Psychologist Rajat Mitra, who has been dealing with juvenile
crime cases for close to 25 years now, "There are several multi-factorial
reasons for the rise in the number of such cases in our country as well as
abroad. Values are no longer absolute, but relative. Such kids exist in the grey
zones. These days they are becoming adult's quickly. There has been a neural
overload on the kids' brains and that's why they aren't able to integrate it
well. That often escalates into anger, and their threshold is low."
Increasing number of juvenile crime is a harsh reality in today's world.
The December 16, 2012 Delhi gang rape, also known as Nirbhaya case put the
spotlight not just on the rise in juvenile crime, but also opened up a debate on
the methods required to curtail it.
Along with the recent rise in number of crimes committed by juvenile in India,
there has also been rise in the shrill debates around it.
One of the six accused in the case was a 17 years, a minor within the meaning of
law and also was the most brutal attacker of all, But just because section 18(1)
of Juvenile justice care and protection Act 2000 and also section 27 of The Code
of Criminal Procedure1973 provides for protection and rehabilitation of the
juvenile offenders, he was sent to correctional home for 3 years which is the
maximum punishment given to a juvenile offender��where other adults offender
After his release on December 20 2015, he was kept with an NGO
for a few days. Later, the NGO rehabilitated him in southern part of the
country, where he joined as a cook in a roadside eatery.
His councillor at juvenile home has expressed that:
"There was no regret on his face when I first met him after he was arrested.
Nor is there any today. I didn't have to grill him to make him confess to his
crimes. He told me in details about his role in the crime. "He told that he
convinced Nirbhaya and her friend to board the bus and about how the crime was
committed by all of them. The counsellor also said "He told me that before Nirbhaya
boarded the bus, he had tried to convince another girl who was alone to get in,
but that had failed."
But the questions remain the same as whether such children should roam free in
public domain or not.
What experts agree on, though, is that it's a vicious cycle with no straight
solutions or answers.
Arguments were brought forward that the blanket immunity from criminal
prosecution to juvenile below eighteen years need to be withdrawn I cases of
involvement of juveniles in heinous offences like murder, gang rape, acid
attacks. The recent amendment of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of
Children) Act, 2015 reduced the age of juvenile offenders who can be tried as
adults to sixteen years.
On this point the Supreme Court noted Parliamentary decisions should not be
carried out just in emotion and anger. Will the political class reconsider and
legislate a better juvenile Act?
There are fifteen year old teens also who are accused of grievous offences like
rape, fourteen years olds are committing murders. Punishment should be
reformative not reattributed especially in the purview of juveniles in conflict
with law. Except in case of rare offences democracies in general make the guilty
pass through correctional phases. In my opinion criminality is much more
important criterion than age of offender, thus the amendment should be in terms
of non-applicability of the juvenility condition in cases like rape, murder,
waging war against the State and so on and forth.
There are certain flaws in the bill, provision that if children are engaged in
militant activities, their punishment would be maximum seven years. It sends a
shiver down the spine to imagine notorious terrorists who unflinchingly
committing genocide can be set free if they are not majors! Another aspect
which comes to mind is how important and effective the age criteria introspect
further? For example, if family plots revenge against another family or against
their kin with whom they bear deep rooted antipathy, they might decide to make
their fifteen year old the perpetrator of the crime, cunningly being well aware
that he or she will be released before eighteen. Thus, to conclude law has
loopholes and justice is not served in all cases.
Putting aside the scepticism and controversies, we would like to bring forth the
decision regarding determination of the age of juvenile in conflict with law by
citing some landmark judgements which in span of over three decades were
overruled and modified until the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of
Children) Act 2015 came into existence.
In the case of Krishna Bhagwan v. State of Bihar
, the full bench of Patna High
Court observed that to determine the age of juvenile for the purpose of this
trail under the Juvenile Justice Act, the relevant date should be the date on
which the offence is committed and not the date on which the juvenile in
conflict with law is brought before court. Thus when the juvenile accused is
within the age limit prescribed by the act, he or she should be tried in a
Juvenile Court (now Juvenile Justice Board under Juvenile Justice Act 2015)
despite the fact that he exceeds that age limit at the time when he was brought
before the competent court for trail.
The Supreme Court reiterated the similar view in Bhola Bhagat v. State of
and further explicitly specified that it is immaterial if the juvenile
exceeds the prescribed age on the day.
But this decision was later overruled by the Supreme Court in Arnit Das v. State
of Bihar, in which it held that crucial date to decide the issue whether a
person is juvenile or not is the date when he or she is brought before the
competent authority and not he date of commission of the offence.
Presently around forty two percent of the Indian population is below eighteen
years. The recent times have witnessed some of the most brutal and heinous
crimes being perpetrated by the children.
The Madhya Pradesh High Court in its decision in Sunit and Anr. V. State of
Maharashtra clarified that the court cannot leave determination of the age of
Juvenile but it is required to make an inquiry suo motu.
With the December 16 gang rape and other cases, several crimes committed by
juveniles are increasingly in the news.
More than 30,000 cases of juvenile crime are coming up every
up every year, that is 1.1% of the total crime committed in the country, points
out lawyer Anant Asthana, who works for juvenile justice in India.
Other data provided by prof KD GAUR in his book, ' Indian penal code' shows that
in 2014 The highest share of cases registered against juvenile were reported
under the crime head 'theft' (20.0%), 'rape' (5.9%) and 'grievous hurt' & 'assault on women with intent to outrage modesty' (4.7%) each. These four crime
heads have together accounted for 39.75 of total IPC cases of juveniles in
conflict with law.
Cases of juvenile in conflict with law reported under various SLL crimes have
increased by 21.8% in 2014 as compared to 2013, as 4,136 cases of juvenile in
conflict with law under SLL reported in 2013 which increased to 5,039 cases in
2014.The highest share of case registered against juvenile was reported for the
crime under 'Prohibition Act' which accounted for 41.3% of total SLL cases
(5,039 cases) registered against juveniles.
Juvenile crime is on the rise not only in India but also all over the World;
psychology suggests that the crime is on the rise due to extensive exposure,
along with a number of distractions, including struggling with emotional
upheavals in a modern and highly competitive world.
Apart from the oft-repeated reasons, there are other factors like the role of
genes- whether violence can be traced to bad genes, and where we are lagging
behind in the role of society, parental responsibility and state measures.
The big question remains, if violence can be traced to genes.
"The reasons responsible for the crime committed at such an age are a mix of
factors like biology and environment. What we lack are 'protective factors'
which help us dealing with negative influences even if it's coming from one's
genes" says Mitra. If one has a 'secure base', which in psychology means
care-givers who provide a safe base for a child to explore the world, things
would be much better, he adds. Our tendency to be lax, casual ad the habit of
putting everything under the carpet is the main barrier that needs to be
Says Psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh, "Once we realise that this period is the
foundation of adult anti-social behaviour, we'll be able to control and prevent
a lot of damage. Teenage is a critical time, when important cognitive
impressions and concept of morals, values, right or wrong are formed. It's also
the time when kids are curious. They try different things, drive stimulation
from multiple sources, and are willing to take risks and could thrive on being
In today's times, what seems to have changed is that people report juvenile
crimes more often because there's a growing concern over the issue. While more
news, more noise about such issues can force people to take some preventive or
corrective measures, it could also give ideas to others to indulge in similar
acts, especially when they see that the offenders get away with it easily.
The Online impact
With youngsters becoming Internet savvy, juvenile cybercrimes are on the rise
and misuse of Internet is becoming common.
At middle and high school levels, cyber-crimes include digital piracy like
stealing data, online bullying and harassment which includes threatening,
blackmailing, and circulating sexually explicit messages/videos through text
messages, MMS or e-mails, viewing online pornography, and computer hacking.
Technology, which adults can find complex, swiftly used and misused by this age
group which puts them in grey area where there are no indications of right or
The temptation is much more at the teenage level. Spending more time online for
non-academic reasons, behind highly trained with computers and having a computer
or phone for their personal usage provides them with an opportunity to commit
"The anonymity afforded by the Internet and computer technology, coupled with
the relative ease and innocuous appearance of most online activities in public
settings, may make cyber-deviance more attractive to some youths than real life
world offences" says a study titled Low Self-Control, Deviant Peer Associations
and Juvenile Cyber-deviance, published by journal Springer in 2011.
From stealing jewellery to stabbing other minors, molesting and raping young
girls to killing women as old as their grandmothers, there seems to have been no
let-up in juvenile crime in India. Statistics shows that 30 to 40% of the boys
and 16 to 32% girls have committed a serious violation offense by the age of
17years, Here is some example of the years 2012-2013
- Feb 6, 2013 Varanasi- Five juvenile thieves were nabbed with 130 grams of
gold ornaments and 1.5 lakh which they had stolen from two hotels in Cantonment
- Feb 2, 2013 Chandigarh- A juvenile recently released from a juvenile home
attacked and stabbed a minor boy inside his house.
- Feb 3, 2013, Gurgaon- A 16years-old boy allegedly molested a 12-year- old
girl in Bajghera village on Sunday, following which he and his mother thrashed
- Jan 20, 2013, Ludhiana: Two men and a minor were accused of raping a
12-year-old girl who allegedly got impregnated by them.
- Jan 12, 2013, New Delhi- A five-year-old child was molested by a
juvenile employed as a teacher at a private school in North-east Delhi.
- Dec 18, 2012, Chandigarh- The local police arrested a juvenile for raping a
minor Dalit girl. Two other under-age friends of the accused were also arrested,
for conspiring, but not raping the victim.
- Oct 1, 2012 Gurgaon: A seven-year-old girl was abducted, raped and abused
by her juvenile neighbour.
- June 29, 2012, New Delhi- The Delhi police apprehended five juvenile who
had killed an 83-years-old women during a robbery attempt in west Delhi.
According to the ministry of women and child development, two out of three
children are abused in one form or the other. In many children are used to
commit offences and evading justice. They are often groomed into committing
offences such as drug dealing by older youths and adults. Either way, young
people coerced into crime are also victims and should be treated as such.
Says, Psychiatrist Sandeep Govil, who has been working with juvenile crime in
Tihar jail, "It's a vicious cycle, one factor propagating through other. For
example, harsh parenting instability and violence in the family create an
insecure environment for a child's growth. Society should stop labelling and let
individuals grow and overcome their weaknesses. The State has gone wrong in its
inability to provide a secure environment for the person and his/her family
socially, economically and culturally which leads to such cases."
A criminal conviction or caution can in practice seriously impact a young
person's chances to become gainfully employed in later life. Although some
convictions and out-of-court disposals become spent after period of time, some
offences, such as arson or robbery or any offence resulting in a custodial
sentence do not and these conviction van haunt people and hinder their careers
for the rest of their lives.
Not only this, the stigma of a criminal conviction can psychologically make it
very difficult for young people to engage with education, training or
employment. Studies show that a conviction has a significant impact in
reinforcing a criminal identity, making it harder for the children to escape
It has been seen that young people who receive convictions in
childhood and youth often people who receive convictions in childhood and youth
often do not have the confidence to apply for even low skilled jobs, due to the
anticipated embarrassment and disappointment of going through the recruitment
process and having to reveal criminal records. In short, criminalisation means
reoffending is more likely later in life. We are effectively creating criminals
and the chronic unemployment which burdens society.
A new approach focus on the causes of crime, often young offenders is victims of
far worse crimes that the usually petty crimes they commit when they first start
offending. Except the rare instances, rather than criminalise, we should be
looking at the cause of this behaviour as a safeguarding issue. Not only is this
necessary in the interest of the right of thee child but also in order to
prevent re-offending and an escalation of offending.
But it is also very much true that this method doesn't work in all the cases.
Where the crime in concern is heinous crime like committing rape, murder, acid
attacks etc. giving protection does not serve full justice to the victims. There
may be various reasons for juveniles getting into various forms of crime such as
impulsive disorders, peer pressure, disturbed environment, broken family or
lavish lifestyle and uncontrolled freedom from parents or even sudden change in
But none of the reason can reduce the damages caused as a result of their act.
In my opinion where a minor is capable of executing a crime in the same manner
and with the same understanding like an adult, the punishment which should be
imposed to such offender should be the same as any other adult person would have
got for the same crime.
Legal system should defiantly work for protection of children but along with
that the justice should also be served to the victims.
- Doli Incapax: Why Do We Hold Our 10 Year Olds To Have Criminal
- Juvenile Delinquency World Youth Report, 2003.
- Juvenile Justice (Care and protection of children) Act, 2000
- Juvenile Forensic Psychology in the Justice System-
- Indian Penal Coded book by k D Guar