“KILL OR KILL NOT” – JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”- Nelson Mandela

It is well written in Bible that the children are gift of god. Every single life, every single child is a blessing and reward in itself. Whether they are bringing pride to their mother or father or whether they are teaching us how to be patient or to have a sense of forgiving, children are gift of god and a source of growth of the kingdom of God on Earth. But why such gift of god is put behind the bars and locked in jails? There is not a single instance of such happening but millions of children are held in jail, prison, detention homes. In many countries these gift of god are put to death for their crimes with the judicial system ignoring the value of child’s life. Children who commit crime from petty offences to murder have to suffer from the harsh sentence and lacunas in the adult justice system rather than to have restorative, counselling and rehabilitation justice programme[1]. Within the past few decades many countries had amended their juvenile code with the increase in the serious and violent crime by the young youth. These amendments have curtailed the power of the juvenile court and power has certainly transferred to the criminal court to sentence the young youth with harsher punishment. If a child who has committed an act should be treated as a juvenile or as an adult. The law determine such things on the basis of knowledge that youth has or not while committing an offence. But nobody looks for the reason behind such crime.

Introduction

“No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline”-Kofi Annan

 

There have been many articles written about the victim children and children who needs care and protection but very little has been written about the juvenile offenders who commit offences and thereafter they have been neglected by the society. The state machinery put and hides them in an institution where no outsider is allowed to interact with them and on the completion of the sentence they have been thrown out off the institution back to that society which always considered them to be neglected. Juvenile offenders are not treated in the same manner as that of adult because the reason for this being that a young juvenile is considered to be less blameworthy than an adult, as he is prone to act in more haste due to lack of judgement and incapability to understand the nature of his act what he is doing is either wrong or contrary to law. From the inception of court, juvenile justice system have proceeded from the assumption that children and young youth by lack of their relative immaturity are less able to control their impulses, less able to understand the seriousness of their offence and less able to foresee the consequences of their act moreover the poverty, cruelty and neglect by the society are determining factor of increase in crime by juvenile.[2] Therefore a child is always a part of society in which he lives. Due to immaturity of his understanding he easily gets motivated through the circumstances around him. It is the social environment and social context that provoke his actions. There is no true love in the world as long as children are made to suffer. Justice is everybody’s right then why Children are made to suffer from inhuman degrading treatment and punishment. Children are the greatest source of national assets and what will happen if all the youth of the country are to be tied in bars whether country would be able to develop. There is universal principle that all human beings are not born criminals but it the environment or social context that forces to do something wrong. Similar in case of children, all children are not born criminals but it is the upbringing that affects always. If a child is brought up in good conditions and has received good education whether that child would become criminal, the answer would definitely be no but if a child who lives in unfavourable condition, he hardly gets food to eat and is brought up by certain person who had been involved in wrongful act won’t that child not become a criminal? “Children are like clay in potter’s hand”. They will be moulded according to the will of potter. Here potter are parents who have been assigned with the duties to make their children a better citizen who will definitely work in progress of nation. Let’s take two examples of two different situations’

1st example – There is child which has been brought well by his parents and received good education.

2nd example- There is a child whose parents are not alive and is brought up by a person who is involved in wrongful acts (murder, robbery, theft) and that child has not received any education.

In both the situation the child in example 2 won’t become an offender and he becomes an offender who would be liable is it the juvenile itself or the person who has taught him all such things.

Who is Juvenile?

Juvenile is the person who has not attained a certain age at which he like an adult person under the law of the land can be liable for the criminal act. Juvenile is a child who is alleged to have committed wrongful act and violated some law which declare the act and omission on the part of child as an offence.

Background of juvenile Justice.

Article 40 deals with Juvenile Justice[3] Children who are accused of breaking the law have the right to legal help and fair treatment in a justice system that respects their rights. Government are required to set up minimum age below which children cannot be held criminally responsible and to provide minimum guarantees for the fairness and quick resolution of judicial or alternatives proceedings. This convention also deals with the establishment of rehabilitation for the child victims. Children who are neglected, abused or exploited should receive special help to physically and psychologically recover and reintegrate into society. Particular attention should be paid to restoring health, self respect and dignity of the child.[4] The convention also deals with the article which provides that no one is allowed to punish children in a cruel or harmful ways. Children who break the law should not be treated cruelly. They should not be put in prison with adults, should be able to keep in contact with their families and should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without possibility of release.[5]

The constitution of India also provides the legal framework for the protection of children. The constitution also mandates to provide the special protection to children under Article 15(3). Article 39 (E and F) provides protection of children’s healthy development. Article 24 of Indian constitution prevents the children from working in hazardous environment below 14 years. Article 21-A provides the right to education to all the children. In spite of such legislation the government is ineffective to control the increase in crime by the Juveniles. If one looks back to all the reason behind such crime one will find that the reason behind the increase in the crime by juvenile is illiteracy and the social environment that motivates the child to move forward in a direction for crime. Now the question that always strike that whom we should punish for such act, is it the juvenile or the immaturity of the Juvenile to understand the nature of his own act which he is doing is either wrong or contrary to law. Punishing Juvenile would impart Justice or not? Certainly justice would never be provided by punishing Juvenile, but we have to look the factors or the reason behind such act of Juvenile. We have to overcome the entire scenario before making any view on the Juvenile offenders.

Juvenile and Death Penalty

“Criminals do not die by the hands of the law. They die by the hands of other men.”-George Bernard Shaw,

 

In earlier times the Juvenile offenders are too punished just as the same as that of the adult. An act of Juvenile offender would be calculated the same as of adult and this was the reason why Juvenile is to punished with death sentence also.

History of Juvenile Death Penalty

Thomas Graunger was the first Juvenile to known to be executed in America and found guilty of bestiality in Plymouth colony MA America in 1642. In Eddings v. Oklahoma[6] was the first case the Supreme Court agreed to hear petition based on defendant’s age.  The Supreme Court without ruling on the constitutionality of Juvenile death granted death punishment to a Juvenile. Since the series of the decision of the United States Supreme court many Juvenile were hanged irrespective of taking into the consideration of immaturity of the youth to understand the nature of the offence. Was death punishment was only the way to stop the increase rate of crime that was committed by Juvenile offenders. Was there was no way stop the crime? There was the way but that road was not taken. Reports tell that about 196 juveniles were punished with the death sentence during 1973 and 1974 in America and it was the highest death of Juvenile offenders who received the death sentence. Article 3 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 says about “Right to life and personal security”. Are children not included in the categories of human beings? Is death penalty is the only remedy to stop crime? Providing death penalty to Juvenile offender will provide Justice to other. Do we really think that juvenile is themselves responsible for the crime or it is the environment which makes them or forces to move in that direction? Death penalty is not remedy for all crime. The need of the time is to rethink on the punishment that has been given to Juvenile offenders. If all the youth of the country commit crime what we should do, either we should hang them or we should provide them with the better environment which could modify their thinking process and improve their thought process. Therefore it is the Juvenile System which tends to protect the children from the gorge of death penalty. The focus of Juvenile legislation is on Juvenile rehabilitation and reformation so that all children may get a fair chance and opportunities to develop themselves as good citizen not as an offender.

Juvenile System in Conflict with law with adult system

It has always been stated that Juvenile system protects the young offender from getting into the adult system and protect them from getting severe punishment. But it is really the fault of Juvenile offenders behind every crime or it is the environment which forces the juvenile offenders to do that act. Juvenile offenders need to be protected because we cannot punish them for the act which they have not capability to understand. There are millions of children around the world who have been tied under bars, prison and detention home while some of them have been hanged for their act. Do they need the same treatment as that of adult for every act? As earlier said that children are like clay in potter’s hand they will be moulded according to the potter. Where a child is born and brought up in unfavourable condition and takes birth in that environment where there are large number of offences that are going to take place each and every day or whether child is born in that society which is known to be the society of criminal is it his fault that he had taken birth their or it is the fault of those people who taught him such things. If a child at the time of birth would have enough knowledge to distinguish between right and wrong then I think that there would be no need of “Juvenile System”

Conclusion

“Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it.” – Harold S Hulbert

Children are the nation’s future citizen and they deserve the compassion and the best care which we can give to them. No child is born criminal and all children are innocent and responsibility should be attributed to that social environment and social context that have stirred the criminal tendencies whose removal might mould the child and change the child into a person of stature and excellence. Death penalty won’t provide remedy to the victim party nor would it decrease the crime rate by the Juvenile offenders. The best way is to provide a wholesome environment to each and every child of the world so that each child would develop its personality to the fullest extent as citizen of nation nor as an offender. Moreover each and every child must be cared brought up well by its parents. At last one should not forget that a Juvenile offender could be nothing more than poor child or child who because of the fault of others caught red-handed in the struggle for survival and he or she deserve a emphatic, kind and humanistic treatment.

[1] “ Children behind bars: youth who are detained, incarcerated and executed,” Youth Advocate Program International, p. 2

[2] Youth system contained in England and  Wales, John Pitt contained in The New Politics Of Crime And Punishment, edited By Roger Mathews and John Young, WILLAN Publishing, pg 7

[3] Convention of rights of child

[4] Article 39 of Convention of rights of child

[5] Article 37 of convention of rights of child

[6] 501 U.S. 957 (1991)

By Pranav Kaushal

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