In India, the legislation on Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 is a beneficial statute fulfilling the constitutional obligation under Article 39 (f) and seeks to provide security and protection to neglected and delinquent juveniles within the framework of law. The Act for the first time recognises that the ‘child’ is a national asset and it is the duty of the State to look after the child with a view to ensuring development of its personality.
Despite special trial arrangements for youthful offenders in juvenile Boards and institutionalising them in a reformatory or Borstal, there seems no remarkable progress in mitigating this evil. Although prevention of crime is primarily a police function but the parents and guardians can actively help in preventing their children from landing into delinquency or anti-social behaviour.
The institution of “family” or “home” plays a vital role in controlling juvenile delinquency. The neglect of wards by their parents is perhaps the basic cause of juvenile misbehaviour. The parents should therefore, be made legally liable and even penalised in case of failure on their part to exercise parental control or supervision over their children.
Some criminologists have drawn attention to the fact that juvenile delinquency is the result of the influence of mass-media, movies, television, etc., on human mind, particularly the teenagers. The television and films have the maximum impact on the viewers due to their audio-visual impact.
Most of the films and T.V. serials depict scenes of sex, violence which pervert the minds of youngsters and they often tend to imitate the same in real life situations. Likewise, pornographic literature also has an unwholesome influence on the impressionable minds of the youths.
It is therefore, desired that censorship mechanism should be strengthened and the producers and directors of films, television etc. should be made to realise their social responsibility in creating a healthy socio-cultural environment in the society.
Criminality and domestic violence in families also deserve attention in the context of crime prevention. The world today is witnessing a rapid change in values culminating in a breakdown of time-honoured family system. The emotional pressures and frustration often end in family violence and victimization of women and children.
Poverty, dependency of women and insufficient housing generally lead to violent behaviour in the family. Though family violence appears to be an age-old phenomenon, it was not questionable in the past due to patriarchal family system. It is in the wake of women’s movement in early 1970’s in Europe and late 1980’s in India, that attention of sociologists and criminologists was drawn to this kind of violence and need for its prevention became eminent.
It is generally agreed that in India and elsewhere, the victims of domestic violence are mostly adult women, married or otherwise, and unwanted children. Though husbands and old parents may also be victims, but in rare cases only.
The acts which are included in family violence are women battering and their physical and sexual abuse causing them untold pain and suffering. Violence against children includes use of physical force causing injury and neglect.
Every kind of domestic violence is generally viewed as private affair and it becomes extremely difficult for law enforcement agencies to intervene in domestic violence incidents. Hardly ten per cent of women dare to file complaint against their husband or in-laws and get them arrested.
Most women who approach the police really do not want to initiate formal proceeding but instead only look for help. Therefore, general public disapprobation seems to be the only remedy for offences involving domestic violence.
It is being increasingly felt that marital rape is a common form of domestic violence. There is proposal before the Law Commission for inclusion of marital rape as an offence under the criminal law, but most crimilogists believe that the provision may be misused and that our society is not yet prepared for such a law.
Yet another potential cause of recidivism is mushrooming of slums due to rapid industrialisation. This has resulted into tremendous rise in slum-related crimes. Most of these slums are dens of illicit distillation, gambling, drug-peddling and even prostitution. Besides, there are frequent scuffles, attempted murders and illegal relations leading to heinous crimes. Slum-dwellers also indulge in burglaries and chain-snatching.
Some psychologists feel that it is futile to think that crimes in this section of society will ever disappear completely as it is an off-shoot of our socio-economic system. Slum related crimes have assumed the form of a growing industry in which most of the beginners in crime turn into recidivists and pose a serious threat to national economy and society.
From the foregoing discussion it is evident that social conditions and penal laws have a close bearing on the problem of crime prevention. Again, crime being a relative term, the concept of “criminal” also varies from place to place depending on the relevant provisions of criminal law. These conceptual differences arise from variations in legal definitions.
For example, murder under the Indian Penal Code is more or less similar to that of manslaughter under the American criminal law. Therefore, amending substantive law of crime according to need of the time would indirectly help in reducing the incidence of crime at a given place.
It is for this reason that the American Law Institute prepared a Draft of Model Penal Code in 1965. The Republic of Germany also prepared its retribution oriented Draft Penal Code in 1962. The New Swedish Penal Code which came into effect from January 1, 1965 lays greater stress on rehabilitation rather than retribution or deterrence.
It must be stated that there is an urgent need for the re-statement of Indian penal law and the law of evidence which are more than 140 years old and are hardly suited to the changed socio-economic and political conditions of the Indian society. The ultimate object of criminal law should be to create conditions which are conducive to progress and prosperity of the community and afford “safe life” to people in general.