Every child has the inherent potential to grow up and achieve his or her full potential and contribute positively towards the growth of nation and society. The Constitution of India grants children the highest priority for their protection and well being. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 adopted by Government of India takes a holistic approach towards protecting the rights of the children by providing for proper care, protection, development, treatment and social re-integration of children in difficult circumstances by adopting a child - friendly approach.
Children are born innocent; however, due to multiple factors, many children adopt behaviours which are defined as delinquent and sometimes being “in conflict with law”. These behaviours range from emotional outburst, petty thefts, substance abuse, violent or aggressive behaviour to more serious types of crimes. These behaviours are often learned early in life. However, parents, family members, and others who care for children can help them learn to deal with emotions without using violence. Studies show that children internalize norms of society through strong bonds with pa rents and others, which protect against delinquent impulses.
“Child in Conflict with Law” has been defined under Section 2 (l3) of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2015 as a child who is alleged or found to have committed an offence and has not completed eighteen years of age on the date of commission of such offence.
The Juvenile Justice System assumes that a child offender is a product of unfavorable environment and is entitled to a fresh chance to begin his life. The offences may have been committed without any criminal intent on certain occasions. The child probably lacks foresight on the repercussions/consequences of his actions. It is accepted that a child offender should not be given punishment based on the kind of offence he /she has committed but should be given an individual treatment which is reformative in nature and which is based on his /her need, psychological and social background.
According to National Crime Record Bureau, a total of 31,396 cases of “children in conflict with law” (CCL) were reported in 2015 and the rate of crime committed by them was 2.1 per cent. However, a majority of these cases are petty crimes and are preventable by providing proper guidance and counselling to children and economic strengthening of their families. An analysis of children who were in conflict with law shows that majority of them belonged to economically weaker section (42.5 per cent). Around 11.5 per cent of them were illiterate while another 43.4 per cent were educated up to primary level only ( Crime in India 2015: Compendium ; NCRB).
Various types of offences committed by children in conflict with law have been defined under the JJ Act, 2015 as follows:
Howard Becker (1966: 226 - 38) has referred to four types of delinquencies:
This refers to delinquency in which only one individual is involved in committing a delinquent act and its cause is located within the individual delinquent. Most of the explanations of this delinquent behavior come from psychiatrists. Their argument is that delinquency is cause d by psychological problems that primarily stem from defective/faulty/pathological family interaction patterns.
Group - supported delinquency
In this type, delinquencies are committed in companionship with others and the cause is located not in the personality of the individual or in the delinquent's family but in the culture of the individual's home and neighbourhood. The studies of Thrasher and Shaw and McKay talk of this type of delinquency. Research findings suggest that most young children who became delinquent was because of their association and companionship with others who were already delinquent. Unlike the psychogenic explanations, this set of ideas focuses on what is learnt and who it is learnt from rather than on the problems that might produce motivation to commit delinquencies.
This type refers to delinquencies that are committed by formally organized groups. These delinquencies were analysed in the United States in the 1950s and the concept of "delinquent sub - culture" was developed. This concept refers to the set of values and norms that guide the behavior of group members to encourage the commission of delinquencies, award status on the basis of such acts and specify typical relationships to persons who fail outside the groupings governed by group norms.
The above - mentioned three types of delinquencies have one thing in common. In all of them, delinquency is viewed as having deep roots. In individual delinquency (according to the psychogenic explanation), the roots of delinquency lie primarily within the individual. In group - supported and organized delinquencies (the sociogenic explanation), the roots (of delinquency) lie in the structure of the society with emphasis either on the ecological areas where delinquency prevails or on the systematic way in which social structure places some individuals in a poor position to compete for success.
Situational delinquency provides a different perspective. Here the assumption is that delinquency is not deeply rooted, and motives for delinquency and means for controlling it are often relatively simple. A young man indulges in a delinquent act without having a deep commitment to delinquency because of less developed impulse - control and/or because of weaker reinforcement of family restraints, and because he has relatively little to lose even if caught. David Matza is one scholar who refers to this type of delinquency. However, the concept of situational delinquency is undeveloped and is not given much relevance in the problem of delinquency causation. It is a supplement to rather than a replacement of other types.
A study by Parackal and Panicker (2016) reveals that most adolescent criminal behaviour is specific to adolescence period and will not continue into adulthood. Much like a toddler outgrows temper tantrums, most adolescents will outgrow deviant behaviour. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is the only available national resource to understand the magnitude of Juvenile delinquency in India. In India, crimes are usually classified into crimes under India Penal Code (IPC) and crimes under Special and Local Laws (SLL). The number of cases registered under various sections of IPC crimes against juveniles (in conflict with law) in 2015 have decreased by 6.3 per cent during 2015 over 2014 as 33,526 cases under IPC crimes were registered against juveniles during 2014 which decreased to 31,396 such cases in 2015. Cases of juveniles in conflict with law registered under various SLL crimes have decreased by 59.6 per cent in 2015 as compared to 2014 as 5,039 cases of juveniles in conflict with law under SLL registered in 2014 which decreased to 2,037 cases in 2015. The National Crime Records Bureau statistics of 2015 depicts that 41,385 children were apprehended in 2015 as opposed to 48,230 children in 2014, i.e., 1.1 percent less than the share of children apprehended in 2014.
Even though the fall in children in conflict with law is marginal, it is a positive sign. In comparison to the UK and the USA, the overall child crimes in India in 2014 is 2.1 per cent which is less and not increasing at rapid pace as compared to these developed nations. Given such low participation of children in offences, they should not be viewed as creating a moral panic in society as portrayed or reported in newspapers, videos, and television.
The NCRB shows that 27 per cent CCL were involved in property-related offences. Children involved in serious and heinous offences of murder and rape constituted only a miniscule with only 2.8 per cent and 5.9 per cent of the total IPC crimes committed by children and 2.1 per cent and 5.1 per cent of the total juvenile crimes in 2014 (NCRB, 2014). This data highlights that children's involvement in serious and heinous crime is marginal and thus, it is very important to ensure that we reduce the risk factors and prevent our children from getting into crime.
Parents, teachers, schools, community and law enforcement agencies need to understand, prevent and reduce risk factors which may push children towards adopting behaviours that may harm them and the wider society and are defined as being in conflict with law. There is enough evidence to prove that with the right kind of prevention and rehabilitation most children adjust, reform, and return to the maturity of adulthood.
Thus, it becomes important to identify risk factors, i.e. factors whose presence and early exposure enhances the likelihood of engaging in delinquency and other behaviour problems (Reingle, Jennings, and Maldonado - Molina 2012; Mmari, Blum, and Teufel - Shone 2010). Protective factors are those which mitigate the influence of risk factors. In recent years, studies of juvenile delinquency and justice system have increasingly examined the impact of these strengths (protective factors) on youth's ability to overcome challenges and thrive. Generally, protective factors - such as positive school attendance, positive social orientation or the ability to discuss problems with parents - are a buffer to minimize or moderate the effect of risk factors and their ability to bring about delinquent behaviour.