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Author: Kavya Srinivasan, I year of LL.B. from University of Glasgow

Child crime is categorised as a juvenile offence in India. In other words, delinquent acts committed by minors are referred to as child crimes. In India, a child must be between 14 and 18 years old to be declared criminal. Under Section 2(l3) of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2015, a child who is accused of committing or is determined to have committed an offence and who was under the age of 18 on the day of the offence is "in conflict with the law.” Additionally, there is a tendency for teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 to be more involved in heinous criminal offences. According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, 28,830 of the 43,506 offences against minors under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, and the Special Local Law (SLL), perpetrated by juveniles in 2019, were committed by those in the above-mentioned age bracket.

There is a variety in crimes committed by juveniles. Individual juvenile crimes refer to all criminal activity committed by a young person on their own. The criminal themselves is the problem's root cause. Some engage in delinquent behaviour in the to muster attention from family or peers while Others engage in criminal activity to assuage their guilt. Circumstantial delinquency occurs when a young person participates in delinquent behaviour without a strong commitment to delinquency because of less developed impulse control and/or lesser reinforcement of familial constraints. Organizations with established structures that engage in organised delinquencies are considered organised child crimes. This is a system of values and norms that guide young people's behaviour when they engage in criminal activity.

There are multiple potential causes for this type of behaviour amongst children. Violence in the family is one of the biggest causes of delinquency. The violence that people endure at home often causes them to set upon at other people. Children who experience violence or who witness it in others are more likely to act out their anxieties and resentments. Delinquency is frequently caused by substance misuse, either by the child or by adults in the home. Children who are exposed to substance addiction frequently lack the essentials for survival and are driven to obtain them elsewhere. Others who have a substance use disorder may also need to engage in criminal activity to support their habit. Children that are delinquent come from low-income homes in significant numbers. Both parents must work long hours outside the home due to poverty in order to provide for their children's daily needs. There won't be anyone to watch over the children who later may unknowingly or knowingly associate with gang members and commit crimes. Direct acquaintances' peer pressure can influence how a youngster responds to challenging circumstances. A child could feel under pressure to participate in criminal behaviour if all of their friends are doing it. Sometimes, such behaviour also results from a lack of moral guidance. The main component in preventing delinquency is parental or adult influence. The likelihood of a youngster acting in a way that is not delinquent increases when a parent or other adult interacts with them and demonstrates what is appropriate behaviour and what is considered incorrect. Asides these socio-economic causes, there are numerous psychological reasons for such behaviour among adolescents. Some criminologists believe there is a direct correlation between mental illness and criminal behaviour. Teenage patients have been the subject of some investigations, and it was shown that they suffered from a variety of mental diseases. For a child, treatment is necessary, not punishment. Juvenile offences are significantly influenced by emotional maladjustment and mental health problems. Young offenders may experience jealously and feelings of inferiority. According to a psychological viewpoint, "delinquency is a revolt and an expression of aggression aimed at harming, breaking down, or transforming the environment." Impulsive behaviour, unrestrained hostility, and an inability to delay gratification are other risk factors. Numerous specific risk factors can frequently be found to have contributed to a young person's involvement in hazardous, destructive, and unlawful activities.

Statistics reveal number of minor rapes increased by 143% between 2002 and 2012. Additionally, it showed that while the number of murders has climbed by 87%, the number of young girls and women who have been abducted by juveniles has increased by 500%. However, just 8% of all crimes committed by adolescents between 2007 and 2012 were classified as serious crimes, such as rape and murder. Petty crimes including theft, burglary, and harming others make up 72% of all crimes committed by young people.The most prominent example of a juvenile’s involvement in a heinous crime is the infamous case of Nirbhaya who, based on his birth certificate and school records, was determined by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) to be 17 years and six months old on the day of the offence. There have been several protests arguing that for the grievousness of crime committed by him, he should be treated and punished at the same level of the other adult offenders involved as reports revealed that he was the one who attacked the victim with an iron rod. However, he was released after completing a three-year sentence at a reformatory in North Delhi’s Majnu Ka Tila. According to data on juvenile delinquency in India, the issue is not as severe as it is in foreign countries. This could be attributed to differences in living circumstances, such as stronger family ties and parental supervision, strong religious convictions, and adequate observance of moral principles in Indian society. This is not meant to imply that India has a small rate of adolescent delinquency.

Observing all this, it is evident that there is more than just deterrence that is required. It is important to provide psychological assistance to juveniles who have been convicted of crime. Therapy, counselling sessions and other forms of mental health support is an absolute necessity. Alongside making them liable for their actions, it is also equally important to strike a balance between that and understanding the juvenile’s psyche to analyse the rationale behind commission of such an act. If they are not immediately stopped from committing the crime, they will develop into habitual offenders. Helping children and their families at a young age has unquestionably proven to be the most effective strategy to reduce juvenile misbehaviour. Early intervention is attempted by many state programmes, and independent organisations can now approach the issue in novel ways thanks to federal financing for community initiatives. Young people should be educated about the adverse effects of being delinquent in their schools by their teachers. The youngsters' lives are significantly influenced by their moral education. They ought to be able to distinguish between concepts that are good for them and those that are bad, right, and wrong. As it is always believed that learning begins at home. Our houses are our first schools, and our parents are our first teachers. Keeping this in mind, parents should initiate conversations with children and talk to them about key issues and at simultaneously create an open and safe space for the child to confide in. A child needs their parents' care, love, and protection to be unwavering, instantaneous, and true. Lack of such affection and care may cause a youngster to become frustrated and dissatisfied, which may lead to criminal behaviour. It is important for maintain a healthy family relationship to prevent delinquent acts by juveniles by helping them develop into self-assured and kind individuals. The community in which a child grows has a significant impact in their character development. Delinquency is effectively controlled by the recreational activities organised by local communities. Youths can interact with adults and children in the community through recreation programmes and make friends. It is thought that young people's energies can be extremely effectively directed toward activities like sports and other healthy interests, which would prevent delinquency among the participants. Youth organisations and groups/agencies should take on the duty for organising these programmes in both urban and rural regions so that youth can be kept out of conflict. Additionally, the media, such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and movies, among others, should offer accurate information about the many crimes committed by young people, examine its genuine causes, and safeguard the young person from inaccurate and deceptive reporting. To allow for an accurate assessment of their delinquent actions, the real position should be made known to society.

To conclude, we can say that child exploitation has always been a common practise. These juvenile offenders experience a lot of abuse, which can be physical, sexual, psychological, or a combination of all three. The abuse has a deep and long-lasting impact on a child's life. The reason this has continued is because society, which includes elements like familial influence, the social environment, mental illness, and sexual assault, has a negative impact on children. Low self-control, a dysfunctional social context, mental illness, and sexual abuse all contribute to this in young individuals. Young people experience mental stress and low self-esteem as a result, which eventually connects with delinquent behaviour. In the delinquent's best interest, he or she should undergo rehabilitation as soon as possible and be reintegrated into society. Additionally, the State must uphold the rights of these children, develop reformative strategies, instil in them moral principles that can improve their social status, and give them a fresh sense of confidence so they can contribute positively to society. It is high time that we transition from being mere by standers and take initiative in even the smallest ways possible.


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