Juvenile Delinquency in India

Oct 20, 2020

Juvenile Delinquency refers to the activities of children below the age of majority committing criminal and anti-social activities for which the existing state laws cannot prosecute them as adults. The rate of juvenile delinquency is surging in the present-day world and it is a serious negative development for society as it is indicative of the atmosphere that exists and needs improvement. In India the law that governs juvenile delinquency is the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (hereinafter referred to as the JJ Act).

The advanced studies in Criminology place great importance on juvenile delinquency as it thwarts and hampers the growth of society. Prior to the Children Act,1960 there were different statutes that dealt with different ages for a Juvenile delinquent. Later the Juvenile Justice Act 1986 was enacted with the aim to “provide for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent juveniles and for the adjudication of certain matters relating to and disposition of, delinquent juveniles” This law was then again replaced by the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 which was amended in 2006 and 2010. This act had adopted certain provisions from the Convention on the Rights of the Child, aimed for better machinery to deal, established Juvenile Justice Board, Observation homes, Special homes, Child Welfare Committee, Inspection Committee and such other provision to deal with Juvenile delinquency.

The law suffered backlash in the event of the Nirbhaya Case, due to its inadequacy in dealing with the crime committed by the minor. A new bill was presented in the parliament in 2014 and the present law that exists that is the JJ Act was passed and it became operative from 2016. The main thrust of this Act was that the Juvenile between the age of 16-18 who had committed heinous criminal activities were to be treated as adults during the criminal prosecution.

There are various factors that lead to children to become Juvenile Delinquents or come in conflict with law. Certain factors are listed as below:

  • Poor economic background of the family
  • Familial upbringing, and members already involved in crimes
  • Growing atmosphere inclusive of neighbourhood and peer groups
  • Mental ill-health or Mental disorders that is left untreated
  • Substance addiction, like drugs and alcohol
  • Misled due to the virtual world, extreme affects of broadcasted videogames, pornography, violent video games.


In India, the approach towards Juvenile is based on three fundamental governing principles which are that young offenders must not be always tried and there should be a method for correction, reformation to be valued more than punishment, paving for non-penal measures through a society-based approach. The Indian Penal Code under Section 82 and 83 states that where a child below has committed an offence, he shall not be liable, whereas a child above the age of 7 to 12 may be tried subject to his maturity. Under Section 27 and 360 of the Criminal Procedure Code,  a juvenile below 16 years guilty of crime which is not punished with life imprisonment or death shall be given lenient punishment and below 21 years are to be released on probation for a period of conduct of three years.

There are several international conventions that deal with children in conflict with law, they are, UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules), UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (Riyadh Guidelines), UN Rules for the Protection of Juvenile Deprived of their Liberty (Havana Conventions), Guidelines for the Action on Children in Criminal Juvenile System (Vienna Guidelines.

The highlights of the JJ Act include provisions  for the Juvenile Justice Board to decide whether the accused aged 16-18 should be prosecuted as an adult or not, it simplifies the adoption process, enabled for foster care under Section 44 of the Act wherein children would be sent to families and monitor them, penal sanction on feeding a child illegal substance and selling of kids. 

There are certain issues related to the Act too, which include the probability of the child to be rehabilitated in a period of three years, lack of control or monitoring over the child post completion of sentence, the imprisonment of juveniles in jail that are dedicated to adults posing threat to the juvenile. The Juvenile Home are not safe and the juveniles are subject to physical harassment and mental torture too is what a report from Asian Centre for Human Rights states.  There is an amendment bill for the act that was introduced in 2018, relating to empower the district magistrate.

As always prevention is better than cure. It is the responsibility of the state to make sure orphaned, poor and disabled children get protection from the state. There should be effective programs conducted for children at individual and at community levels to instil path of righteousness and good and restrict the propensity of them in falling into wrong hands. The author feels that the state should primarily invest in the identification of troubled youth before they commit crime as the road ahead post commission of crime for young adults are crowded with possibilities to walk on the wrong path then be reformed to as an ideal productive citizen.