A NEED FOR REFORMATION OF JUVENILE DETENTION SYSTEM IN INDIA

Author: Aditi Sahay, 2nd Year, B.A. LLB (H), Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur

Introduction

Proper growth plays an important role in building up the future of a child. However, due to illiteracy and family background, some children indulge in unlawful activities and end up committing crimes like burglary, murder and even rape. Due to their immaturity, they are sent to the Juvenile Detention Centres where they are kept in the process of rehabilitation. But due to improper procedures and facilities not every child in the detention centre completes rehabilitation successfully.

Certain amendments were made in Acts for providing proper justice to each and every individual. The Juvenile Detention System is a part of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 which plays an important role in giving care and protection to a child. However, the crimes committed by a child are still increasing and most of the detention centres are failing to provide a better life for them. This article has laid down a brief analysis of the juvenile detention centres and laws related to it. It has further discussed the amendments and the remaining pitfalls of the laws. The article has also laid down some suggestive measures to curb the pitfall and make the laws related to juveniles more efficient.

A brief analysis of Juvenile detention

Juvenile Justice Act is an act for the development and protection of a child under eighteen years of age. The ‘child in conflict of law’ is used for a juvenile offender unlike adults where offenders are referred as ‘accused’. The arrest of such a child in conflict is called ‘apprehension’ as provided under Section 10 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015[1]. Section 6 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015[2], says that any person below the age of eighteen years indulges into a crime then the person is sent to a special prison for minors also called a juvenile detention center or a correction home which are located away from the public areas[3]. The total number of Juvenile homes is 815 in India[4].

According to Dirk Kempthorne, “Experts say that if children can’t read by the end of the fifth grade, they lose self-confidence and self-esteem, making them more likely to enter the Juvenile Justice System”.

Also, Q’orianka Kilcher says, “I think it’s more important for us as a society to remember that the youth within juvenile justice systems are, most of the time, youths who simply haven’t had the right mentors and supporters around them – because of circumstances beyond them”.

The crimes committed by the minors in the order of their gravity are explained below:

  • Petty crimes – These crimes are not considered to be a serious crime or going into detention. For example – pickpocketing or trespassing.
  • Serious crimes – It is considered to be a critical offence where the juvenile can be brought into the procedure of detention. For example – burglary.
  • Heinous crimes – This crime is similar to serious crimes but the gravity of this crime is high and the juvenile is considered to go into detention. For example – rape or murder[5].

During the British rule, Colonial law was followed in India where the punishment for every offender was equal including the minors who were kept in adult jails. In the influence of adults, the minors were bullied and encouraged to commit heinous crimes. Due to these reasons adults and juveniles were deferred and a separate jail was established for them by Lord Cornwallis which was called a “Ragged School” in 1843. Chronologically, the Apprentices Act, 1850 was the first law which dealt with juveniles between the age of 10-18 years[6].

There are several procedures which each juvenile delinquent has to go through before going into the detention house. Firstly, the delinquent has to go under a mental maturity check in the Juvenile Detention Board consisting three members i.e., Judicial Magistrate of First Class and two Social Workers in which one must be a woman[7]. The board checks the mental and physical ability of the child to commit the offence by the assistance of psychologists and within two to three months the board decides whether the juvenile has committed the offence as a child or as an adult[8].

The main objective of these Juvenile Detention Centers is to provide treatment and rehabilitation to juvenile offenders. Their motive is to educate them and make them a better person so that they can live a proper life after the completion of a sentence for the specific time period.   

Amendments done for the Juvenile Delinquency in the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.

This was an important law to be amended for the juveniles in India to provide care, protection and control over juvenile delinquency. The Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 replaced the previous Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 after India ratified  UNCRC in 1992[9]. The JJ Act 2000 dealt with two categories of children viz. ‘child in need of care and protection’ and ‘child in conflict with law’. This act demanded that the crimes committed by a person under 18 years of age will be handled softly.

This act experienced nationwide criticism because of the Delhi gang-rape incident in 2012 widely known as Nirbhaya case, where a 23-year-old girl was raped by six men in a bus. But it turned out that one of the six accused was a minor who escaped from the punishment because of his age[10]. There were a total of eight writ petitions presented in the Supreme Court to reduce the age of juveniles from 18 to 16 years as not punishing the juvenile the court is encouraging other teenagers to commit crimes. In 2014, Maneka Gandhi introduced the bill in the parliament. A new law was formulated by amending JJ Act, 2000 which allowed sixteen years old to be tried as an adult which introduced the Juvenile Justice Act 2015.

The new act laid down any punishments to 16 -18 years of age committing heinous crimes except life imprisonment and death penalty which would be harsh over children as they lack the sense of responsibility and should get a second chance to reform their life which was discussed during the presentation of the bill[11]. The act also laid down for the establishment of Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committee in every district which will help a child in conflict of the law as a child in the conflict is needed better protection for their better life by giving importance to their basic needs and proper education, treatment and development in a friendly way in detention centres. It also deals with child adoption and various rules was framed for adoption.

Are the changes enough in the Juvenile detention system so far?

The Juvenile Justice Act (care and protection of children) 2015 has implemented many changes so far for the well-being of the children not only in the society but also for the children in conflict of the law. But the question stands here is whether the changes are enough? Will it provide a healthy and proper life for children?

The juvenile detention system is considered to be the best solution for the reformation of a child but the quality of some rules are lacking behind. Juvenile Detention Center is a place to reform the child but the true fact is not every juvenile is successful in a proper rehabilitation. Another really important study needs to be done is why are the children in conflict of the law?

  •  India is a developing country with the second highest population in the world after China. India also has a huge poverty line where people struggle in their social life and in these people, children are the ones who struggle the most. It is important for children to get proper care and protection in their young age so that they won’t indulge into criminal acts.
  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) case registered in 2005 against the child in conflict of law was 18939 and in 2015 it was 31396 in India[12]. The crimes committed by the child have been increased instead of been controlled as seen in the data by NCRB.
  • It is easier to reform the child right from his childhood instead of reforming the child at a later stage when he is in remand home. There are various reasons why a child indulges into criminal activities. Some of them could be poverty, lack of education, broken families, access to pornography, failing in child protection, etc. It would be inappropriate to blame them.

Even if they end up in a Juvenile detention center or correction home, what is the probability that each and every child there would come up as a new being and start a new life without doing any crime?

  • The Juvenile Justice Board has been too soft over the juveniles which can make the possibility for them to commit a second crime. Not only for the juveniles in conflict of the law but for other children or teenagers it is important to create fear in them so that they don’t indulge in criminal activities. It is important that India should educate each and every child to know what are the laws that can protect them and also the laws which can punish them for their wrongful activities.

What further changes can be implemented in the detention system?

India has seen unlawful activities performed by many teenagers under the age of 18 years. This is the only reason for the establishment for a separate jail for these juveniles who can form a better life for rehabilitation unlike the normal jails for adults. But there are more changes which are still needed for them to become a different person which is required for their better life.

  • The very important fact to be known is that our Juvenile Justice Board is very soft and lenient in punishing the juveniles. The principle ‘Bail is a Rule and Jail is an Exception’ in the Juvenile Justice Board needs to be removed so that the laws become strict for the juveniles in conflict of law. Being so soft actually motivates other children to commit offense.
  • There have been cases where juveniles are not even provided with the books to study. Education plays an important role in youth’s life. It is important that the education and the mentors should be of proper quality. The tolerance in the detention house is not in control which results in the juveniles to be treated harshly.
  • It is very common that the juveniles in the prison come into a fight with each other or have violent relations, for them it is important to have a proper quality of psychiatrist to train and guide them. A good counsellor can teach them about discipline which mostly lacks there.
  • In the juvenile prison there may be a probability that not every person is criminal. There can be cases where the prisoner is wrongfully confined. A proper legal support is needed for them.
  • This is a very important thing to be known. There have been cases where juveniles have been kept in adult prisons instead of juvenile detention prisons by violating the Juvenile Justice Act 2015. This affects the mental health of the child and no proper education is given to them which totally affects the process of rehabilitation. The number of juveniles identified in adult jails was 283. The Indian government needs to improve this and take strict actions against the violation of law[13].
  • For the upliftment of the child the Juvenile detention centres show many papers and schemes but unfortunately not every scheme is implemented properly which again affects the upliftment of the child.
  • There is almost no segregation between older and younger juveniles in the detention centers and also the juveniles committing minor (like burglary) and major (like rape) crimes are kept under the same roof which can result in chaos between them and the rehabilitation can be affected.
  • The horrors faced are not only in the Indian juvenile detention centers but also in most of the other countries like the USA where most of the juveniles are discriminated against on the basis of their colour which is a very common problem in the country.

Conclusion

There is a need for change in the detention system practised in India. The activities which are performed for the child in conflict are too soft which does not create much attention to their seriousness of the crime, and also not performing the correct law and order which makes the juvenile rehabilitation difficult. There must be commitment and discipline which needs to be followed among the workers who need to provide proper care and protection.  Therefore, the current defects need to be resolved and advancement should be done to achieve higher goals for the uplifting of juvenile care in the detention system.  


[1] Section 10) Apprehension of a child alleged to be in conflict with law, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, Act No. 2 of 2016.

[2] Section 6) Placement of persons, who committed an offence, when person was below the age of eighteen years, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, Act No. 2 of 2016.

[3] Purti Vyas, An analytical study of Juvenile Justice System in India, ipleaders intelligent legal solutions (Apr. 24, 2018) <https://blog.ipleaders.in/juvenile-justice-system-india/.>

[4] Nandini G Devarmani, Institutional treatment for juveniles in India – a critical analysis, 3, MC, 256, 256-260 (2016).

[5] Gauri Pillai & Shrikrishna Upadhyay, “Juvenile maturity and heinous crimes: A re-look at Juvenile Justice policy in India, 10 Manupatra”, 49 (2017).

[6] Aprajita Bharagava, Juvenile Justice in India, The Law Brigade Publishers (Mar. 16, 2019),

 <https://thelawbrigade.com/criminal-law/juvenile-justice-in-india/#Articles_Publisher_Details>

[7] The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, No.4, Acts of Parliament, 2015 (India).

[8] Ibid 2.

[9] The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, Vakilno1.com (Feb. 13, 2013) <https://www.vakilno1.com/bareacts/juvenilejusticeact/juvenilejusticeact.html.>

[10] Nirbhaya gang rape case: Juvenile found guilty of rape and murder, TOI, Aug 31, 2013

<https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Nirbhaya-gang-rape-case-Juvenile-found-guilty-of-rape-and-murder/articleshow/22183253.cms.>

[11]  Smita Gupta, Adult Laws will cover 16 – 18 years old, THE HINDU (May 07, 2016, 17:21pm)

<https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/lok-sabha-passes-uvenile-justice-care-and-protection-of-children-bill/article7180849.ece.>

[12] Deepshikha Agarwal, Juvenile Delinquency in India – Latest trends and entailing Amendments in Juvenile Justice Act, 3 JO 1366, 1365-1383 (2018).

[13] Abhishek Jha, How the Government breaks the Juvenile Justice laws to send children to Jail, Youth ki awaaz (Jan. 14, 2017),<https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2017/01/children-in-jail-india-juvenile-justice-laws/.>


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