Essay on the Evolution of Juvenile Justice System in India

There are other enactments which prevail in different States of India for administration of juvenile justice such as:

The Reformatory Schools Act, 1897 Bihar Borstal Schools Act, 1962 and other Borstal Schools Acts of different States. There is also Women’s and Children’s Institutions (Licensing) Act, 1956.

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The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 made major changes regarding juveniles. The age of the juvenile has been raised from 15 years to 16 years. Section 27 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that any offence not punishable with death or imprisonment for life committed by any person who at the date when he appears or is brought before the Court is under the age of 16 years, may be tried by the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate or by any Court specially empowered under the Children Act, 1960 or any other law for the time being in force providing for treatment, training and rehabilitation of youthful offenders. The expression “treatment, training and rehabilitation” has been substituted for “custody, trial or punishment.”

The Indian Penal Code gave immunity to a child under Sections 82 and 83 of I.P.C. Section 82 of the I.P.C. states that nothing is an offence which is done by a child under seven years of age and Section 83 provides that nothing is an offence which is done by a child above seven years of age and under twelve years, who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding, to judge of the nature and consequences of his conduct on the occasion. In the context of delinquency, law givers always protected the child or juvenile.

The nation recognized that the children of today are the citizens of tomorrow’s India and the country’s future would necessarily depend upon their proper hygiene, physical and mental condition and it is the duty of the State to look after the child with a view of ensuring full development of the personality as a child is a national asset.

It is also recognized that the juvenile offenders shall be treated as a class being of tender age and of immature mind. In the atmosphere prevailing in the society many of the juvenile offenders are themselves victims of the society, not having got proper care, affection, training or having come in contact with evil elements of the society.

The National Policy for the Welfare of Children, 1974 declares:

“The nation’s children are a supremely important asset. Their nature and solitude are our responsibility. Children’s programmes should find a prominent part in our national plans for the development of human resources, so that our children grow up to become robust citizens, physically fit, mentally alert and morally healthy, endowed with the skill and motivations needed by society. Equal opportunities for development to all children during the period of growth should be our aim for this would serve our large purpose of reducing inequality and ensuring social justice.

After reviewing the existing Children’s Act, the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was enacted to implement the following objectives:

(i) To lay down legal framework for juvenile justice in the country so as to ensure that no child under any circumstances is lodged in jail or police lock-up. Special Juvenile Welfare Boards and Juvenile Courts are established;

(ii) To provide for a special approach towards the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency in its full range in keeping with the development needs of the child found in any situation of social maladjustment;

(iii) 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.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 came into force in different parts of the country by replacing the corresponding laws on the subject such as the Children Act, 1960 and other enactments on the subject.

This Act was made as the justice system as available for adults is not considered suitable for being applied to juveniles. The Act brought a uniform juvenile justice system which makes adequate provision for dealing with all aspects in the changing social, cultural and economic situation in the country.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 is enacted as a beneficial legislation as well as a Human Rights Legislation. As per Section 4 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, the procedure prescribed in that Code is not applicable to the investigation, inquiry or trial of any offence under any special law if a different procedure is prescribed in such special law. Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 is more or less a procedural law applicable to the investigation, inquiry or trial of offences relating to trials of the juveniles or the child.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 overrides the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the Dacoity Affected Areas Act, 1983, but the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 and National Security Act, 1980 overrides the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986.

Later, the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was repealed by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 with the changed national and international outlook regarding the juveniles. Thus, a separate juvenile justice system evolved in India.