Children who commit crimes have a complicated status in the legal world. As they have less understanding of law, they deserve special protection. Since they are still minors under the law, they do not possess all the constitutional rights that adults have. Therefore, most of the juvenile courts’ procedures try to balance these concerns and insist on rehabilitating juvenile delinquents.
This article gives an insight in the main differences between the laws made for the juvenile and the adult. It also explains the legal system dealing with both juvenile and adult and how they are treated by the laws enforced.
WHO IS A JUVENILE?
A child is considered as the future of any nation. Children grow and develop their knowledge about life during the age of 0 to 18 years. They have abundant of positive energy, willingness to learn and skills, which guide them towards their future. Thus it becomes our duty to protect the children and provide them safe and positive environment beneficial for their future.
Under the Indian law, any person who is below eighteen years of age is considered a juvenile. However, the Indian Penal Code provides that any child of seven years of age and below cannot be tried in the court of law. There are various legislations that protect and guide the juveniles to discard the path of criminal activities. Some such laws are as follows:
The Constitution of India: Article 15(3), 21A, 24, 39, 39 (e) and 47 lay down the provisions to protect the children from various illegal practices or activities.
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
JUVENILE JUSTICE (CARE AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN) ACT
After the incidence of the Nirbhaya Gang Rape case, 2012, a few amendments were made in the juvenile legal system and it led to the introduction of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of children) Act in 2015. The Juvenile Justice Act was enforced on 15th of January, 2016. This act incorporated various new provisions in the area of care and protection of children who are indulged in unlawful activities. It aims to adjudicate the cases while keeping in mind all the practical solutions to guide the juvenile towards a crime-free life.
As per amendment made in the act, is a juvenile between 16 to 18 years of age is involved in a heinous crime like rape, murder, etc., he can be tried as adult after the approval of the Juvenile Justice Board.
WHO IS AN ADULT?
A person who has attained 18 years of age is considered as an adult in the eyes of law. He or she attains the legal age of majority and becomes bound by various laws of the country.
After attaining the age of majority, a person becomes eligible to apply for a driving license, right to vote and elect his choice of government, enter into a contract with another person and so on.
Therefore, an adult is granted various rights by the law and on the other hand is subject to the obligation to abide by all the laws, rules and regulations set by the country to prevent the happening of crimes or any illegal activities and ensure harmony, security and peace in the nation.
JUVENILE vs. ADULT CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
The major difference between a juvenile and an adult is that of age group. Juvenile is the person who is below the age of 18 years, while an adult is the one who falls in the age group of 18 years and above.
As mentioned above, the rules and proceedings for juvenile offenders differ from those for adults. Below are given some of the main differences between the Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice System:
I. Juveniles are charged for delinquent acts
Unlike the adult court system, minors in court get charged with delinquent acts instead of crimes. To consider these acts a criminal offense and check out them in adult court, they need to be very serious. Delinquent acts are unlawful conduct by minors, and a few of them—if they were committed by adults—are punishable under legal code , whereas others are still unlawful, but more minor in nature. Some common delinquent acts include truancy, underage drinking/purchase of alcohol, underage smoking/purchase of tobacco, trespassing, petty theft, and fighting.
II. Juvenile trials have adjudication hearings rather than jury trials
Minors don’t have the proper to a public trial by jury, and a part of this reasoning comes from protecting the rights minors have. Instead, a judge hears the evidence for and against the minor in an adjudicatory hearing and rules on whether the juvenile committed a delinquent act. The hearing is analogous to an attempt in an adult criminal case, where the prosecutor would need to prove the case beyond an inexpensive doubt.
III. Juvenile cases focus on rehabilitation over punishment
One of the most important differences between adult and juvenile court is that the concept , more often than not, juvenile cases will focus more on rehabilitation instead of punishment. The goal of court systems is to rehabilitate minors and serve their best interest. This means that the sentencing in juvenile cases will are available many forms, like rehab centers and probation, instead of prison. If the crime is serious enough, however, the court may focus more on punishment instead of rehabilitation.
IV. Juvenile courts are more informal
In general, juvenile courts are more informal than their adult counterparts. Trials in court often don’t carry the strain, pressure, or stigmas of adult court. Since the judge and therefore the system want to focus more on rehabilitation, there isn’t the maximum amount of a harsh undertone. The purpose is to enhance the lives of these charged with various crimes and prevents it from happening again. This informality lends toward the more lenient attitude of court systems. The court system hopes to enhance a minor’s future, instead of this crime being the defining feature of their life.
V. Juvenile court decisions are determined with dispositions
In an adult criminal case, a defendant found guilty will have a sentencing that determines their punishment. In court, however, there’s a disposition to work out what is going to happen to the minor. Like we mentioned above, since there’s more of attention on rehabilitation, the dispositional options include a plethora of options, like home supervision, camp placement, community service, counseling, informal probation, and more. This is quite different than the results you’ll find within the adult court, like time in prison and large fines. You’ll find that these dispositions are far more lenient than adult cases.
The Constitution of India is known to be one of the best constitutions in the world as it protects all the citizens, despite their gender, caste or creed. The legal system of our country guarantees equal treatment to all the citizens and assures that all the individuals get justice in the court of law. The increasing rate in the number of crimes committed by the minors make it important for the legal system to keep a check on the activities of juveniles as well.
In Indian Criminal Justice System, juveniles are treated differently from the adults as they fall under growing age, where they are still learning the difference between right and wrong and explore about life.
Therefore, it provides a second chance to the children to realize and learn from their mistakes and become better individuals as nobody is born a criminal.