By : Rama Tamhankar, Law Student, GNLU


Children are the future of a country. Their growth and development towards becoming responsible citizens decide the well-being of a nation. They are the most vulnerable section of our society; hence it is paramount for a state to protect them. But in a country like India, they are exposed to crime at an early age due to various reasons like poverty, lack of education, etc. The interlinkage between delinquency and offences is not hostile to the Indian Justice system. Juvenile delinquents mean children below 18 years of age who have committed a crime. This vulnerable section of society is the highest priority of law to protect from being exposed to the world of crime. Hence Indian Constitution recognises the special status of children through provisions like Article 15(3), 24, 39(e) and 39(f), and 45. In 1974, declaring 'Children as supremely important assets' in Indian National Policy for Children, the Indian Government reiterated the importance of child protection. 


The Government has tried to adopt different legislations to protect juveniles from the time of the Britishers. After the initiation of separate legislation for juveniles introduced by the Apprentices Act of 1850, the Reformatory Schools Act of 1897 was another primary juvenile legislation of the time. It differentiated the young offenders from the adult offenders by sending them to reformative schools instead of prison as punishment. These reformatory schools had their own limitation. After The Indian Jail Committee (1919-1920) recommendations, the first Children's Act 1920 was enacted in Madras, followed by its enactment in Bengal and Bombay in 1922 and 1924, respectively. All these initial legislations could be said to have led to the foundation of today's modern juvenile justice system. After these legislations, there was a need for unified legislation; hence parliament brought the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986, which replaced the provisions of earlier laws. In this act, the age of majority for females was 18 years, and for males, it was 16 years. After 13 long years of being operated, this law could not pass the test of time and was replaced with The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, where the majority age of females and males was made uniform that is 18 years. This act was later amended in 2006. In 2012, after the Nirbhaya gangrape case, there was an urgent need for reformation in the legislation. The nation wept when one of the offenders in the above case was a juvenile and hence was prosecuted less severely despite committing a heinous crime due to the inefficacy of the law. Thus, after many controversies, The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 was replaced with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015. This law brought up a significant change in the Indian delinquency law by allowing minors aged 16-18 to be treated as adults in exceptional cases like heinous crimes. This law also affected India's international obligations, like Beijing Rules, 1985 and Havana Rules, 1990. This act was again amended, making it The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2021. This amendment faced much opposition as it made some serious offences under the act from being cognisable to non-cognisable. There have been 29 amendments to this legislation which shows the efforts of the Government to create a modern and efficient juvenile delinquency law.


These laws are supposed to reduce the rate of juvenile delinquency, but the recent reports of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) state the contrary. According to the 2021 report, 31,170 cases have been registered against juveniles which are 4.7 % more than the last year. The disturbing data is that the majority of these crimes are committed by youth aged 16-18. It could be concluded from these reports show that there is a gap between the laws created on paper and the actual social implementation. Along with the effective implementation, there is a need to find the root cause of children getting involved in a crime. 

Criminal behaviour at a young age could be the result of many social and environmental conditions that a child faces while growing up. In India, poverty is an evil against society which also affect juveniles. Poverty leads to other problems like lack of literacy among the parents, lack of education, child labour and many more. Along with these problems, the psychological conditions of children should not be ignored. In this digital world, youngsters are struggling with emotional stability, low self-esteem etc. In such situations support from parents, and teachers play a significant role but changing social structure like nuclear families, virtual schools, etc. has made children even more vulnerable. Hence, they try to use the internet to find the answers, and many of them get exposed to the world of cybercrime. It will not be an exaggeration to state that the internet is ruled by the young generation, and many are juveniles. India is facing a lot of problems related to different types of cybercrimes like cyberbullying, cyber frauds, cyber suicide, cyber theft, cyberstalking, cyber pornography, hacking etc., and the more disturbing reality about these crimes is the ones who are committing it (primarily youngsters) are unaware of the severe consequences of the same. Surprisingly, when it comes to cybercrimes committed by minors, the Juvenile Justice Act 2021 falls short. It is that grey area of the law where there is no specific provision dealing with the cybercrime committed by the minor, even when a large portion of the internet users are juveniles.