At an age not old enough to be called adults and at an age not young enough to be called children, the quandary of the juvenile population has been intriguing. Their plight gets compounded by the fact that increasing number of juveniles in India are being associated with delinquent behavior involving personal and social disorganisation.
The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 defines (after 2000 Amendment) male and female below the age of 18 years, as juveniles. In this susceptible group, the National Crime Record Bureau reports that share of crimes committed by juveniles to total IPC crimes has increased from 0.9% in 2001 to 1.0 % in 2002 & 2003. The same reports also gives a scary analysis of different sections, under which the alleged ‘crimes’ were committed. While arson and kidnapping constituted a significant percentage of the crimes, it were the cases registered under counterfeiting and dacoity that registered a sharp increase of 166.7% and 93.7%, respectively for the years 2002 to 2003. Under Special Local Laws (SLL), the cases registered were more under ‘adult’ sections like Indecent Representation of Women Act and the Explosive Act.
The case of a juvenile delinquent being totally different from the adult criminals, the difference exists in the process, philosophy and methods of treatment. Requiring counselling, care and rehabilitation, the Juvenile Justice System or its procreator, the civil society and the government has failed to nurture the most vulnerable section of Indian population. While poverty, family problems at home, impact of mass media can be reasoned to be the causes, the reformatory or the Borstal Schools have failed to be inspiring. It has been reported that these so-called correctional centers do not even have the basic amenities to meet the standards laid down by the Central Social Welfare Board.
The solution then has to be structured, directed and holistic. And the responsibility for corrections has to be shared both by the government as also by the civil-society.