Justice Juvenile Act.
Do you think that a 16 year old is old enough to think like an adult and weigh all the consequences and nature of his/her actions? Or for that matter, is a 14 year old able to do so? Or a 21 year old?
I don’t know the answer. But the legal system here in India does. Our legislature has specified a certain age for every action: To drink, to drive, to be able to work and so on. Also, the legal age of becoming an adult is that of 18 years. This is the same age which is under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 which states that any individual in India under the age of 18 is treated differently and is treated like a juvenile, compared to those who are above the age of 18 as per the Indian Penal Code.
This act was made with a very particular mind-set. One, because it protected the children of India, who constitute almost one-third of our population and are tomorrow’s future. And the second reason is much more significant, because of the very spirit and significance of this act, which is of reformation, i.e. reforming the damaged youth of this country. As we are duly aware, India hasn’t developed much as it should have. We are drowning in myriad shades of being poor, social inequalities and economic differences are prevalent, there is lack of access to education and corruption is clearly rampant. It can be quite safe to say that these circumstances lead to one-time crimes being committed by these juveniles. Thus, the idea here it to reform through four major ways, i.e. rehabilitation, juvenile homes, social aid and psychological aid, so that they do not become hardened criminals. However, if they are treated at par with adults, we will be the catalysts here in making them finish this school of criminality, by sending them to those same jails where already hardened criminals have bred.
This Act gives them that one chance, that one reason to amend their ways and return to society with a realization of what is wrong and right. To correct their moral compasses and allow them to store that dignity and respect in society. Despite all this, everything can’t be perfect because our legal system did not do its homework well enough. And there are some loopholes in this Act. Like the way that all juveniles aged between 8-17 years of age are kept in the same house, which is not right because it leads to high rates of sexual molestations and rapes in those houses. Also, each State does not have its own laws which acts as a deterrent for the Act. As a result of these numerous loopholes, this act has been continuously misused in recent times with the most recent atrocity being the Nirbhaya case. And because of this social outrage of heinous crimes, a new amendment has been introduced which proposes to lower the cut-off age from 18 that to of 16.
Some may argue that this is a mere minor change. Any cut-off, be it 18 or 16, will have some people getting away and misusing it. While the lowering of the age is quite debatable, it is not in ANY WAY taking away the spirit of this Act: which must be maintained and not diluted in lieu of the recent violent and heinous crimes. One may say this article will not go well regarding the widespread agitation about the Nirbhaya juvenile being let out. Most of you will even criticize me. But let me ask you all a question.
If this amendment is passed and in the coming times a child who is 15 years and 8 months old commits a crime that is quite gruesome and heinous, will a hue and cry again be created, leading to the criticism of the act, again?