1 in 6 juveniles held on serious charges
A Selvaraj TNN
Chennai: At least four juveniles are arrested on criminal charges every hour in India and nearly one in six is accused of serious crimes. As the Centre toys with a proposal to treat juveniles accused of heinous crimes on a par with adult offenders, statistics for 2012 show that there was a 15% increase in the number of minors arrested in comparison to the previous year. However, any change in the existing law will not have any effect on those already facing charges.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 30,766 juveniles, including 1,532 girls, were arrested in 2011. The number increased to 35,465, which included 1,672 girls, in 2012. There has also been a 15% increase in the number of juveniles charged with heinous crimes like murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping and rape – from 4,938 in 2011 to 5,703 in 2012. There was no separate data for those in the age group of 16 to 18. In both the years, the juveniles charged with serious crimes accounted for more than 16% of those arrested.
Madhya Pradesh topped in the list with 5,970 juveniles being arrested in 2012, closely followed by Maharashtra with 5,931 arrests. Tamil Nadu came eighth with 1,577 juvenile offenders, including 72 murder suspects. Of the total juvenileoffenders, 1,213 were arrested on murder charges, 1,305 on
rape charges and 1,088 for attempt to murder.
A proposal by the government seeks to treat juveniles above 16 and accused of serious crimes under the Indian Penal Code sections applicable to adults. But any change in law in this regard will apply only to future cases, say experts. “Any criminal law enacted will be treated as prospective and not retrospective. This amendment will not affect those arrested earlier on similar charges,” said former Madras high court judge K Chandru. He also voiced his opposition to amending the law.
“The act cannot be enacted based on one or two incidents. The juveniles in the age group of 16 to 18 really need care and protection,” he said.
As per the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, boys under 16 and girls under 18 were treated as juveniles. The act was amended in 2000, as per the standards prescribed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985 (the Beijing rules) and the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (1990), thus increasing the juvenile age limit for boys to 18. Justice (retd) Chandru said the law cannot be changed further because India is signatory to all these conventions and rules that govern the juvenile justice system.
He said many juveniles indulge in criminal activities due to poverty. “The juveniles with least monitoring fall into bad company and get involved in criminal activities. They should be reformed and brought back into society. The government should take proper care of them and provide education. Child labour should be eliminated,” he said.
Former Juvenile Justice Board member T Alagappan said, “There are several reasons why juveniles take to crime. Dropping out from schools, lack of supervision by uneducated parents, large families with low income, bad neighbourhood, drug addiction and peer influence are some of the main reasons.”
Amending the law will deny juveniles between 16 and 18 years protection of the Juvenile Justice Act. The women and child development ministry’s proposal is likely to leave the decision on whether the crime should be treated under IPC provisions to the Juvenile Justice Board, which will be expected to evaluate the evidence, the heinousness of the crime and other parameters like previous behaviour and socio-economic and psychological conditions of the accused.
Source::::: The Times of India, 04-12-2013, p.15, http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIM/2013/12/04&PageLabel=15&EntityId=Ar01500&ViewMode=HTML