Chapter III Code of Criminal Procedure deals with the powers of Courts to take cognizance of offence which are divided into offences Indian Penal Code and the offences under any other law. The powers of courts for trial of the offences are mentioned from Section 26 to 35 of the Code.
Jurisdiction in the case of juveniles
Any offence not punishable with death or imprisonment for life, committed by any person who at the date when he appears or is brought before the Court is under the age of sixteen years, may be tried by the Court of a Chief Judicial Magistrate, or by any Court specially empowered under the Children Act, 1960 (60 of 1960), or any other law for the time being in force providing for the treatment, training and rehabilitation of youthful offenders.
The section further considerate of the age and psyche of Juvenile offender conforms with restorative justice, by providing with the following:
○Rehabilitation of youthful offenders.
Position before the amendment
The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 and that Amendment Act, 2000 were complete Act with regard to offenders below 16 years if male, and under 18 years if female. Such offenders have been termed as “Delinquent Juveniles” under the Act. These Act had sweepingly overriding effect on other enactments of the State Legislatures or Parliament dealing with proceedings against delinquent juveniles on any criminal charge. A delinquent juvenile can now only be proceeded against under this Act, even if may be a case of murder or of rape. He cannot be sentenced to death or imprisonment of life. Ordinary law shall not apply to him even if he ceases to be a Juvenile during the course of inquiry, and he shall still be continued to be treated as juvenile under Section 3 of the Act, 1986.
The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 was amended in 2015 which is a progressive legislation allowing children in conflict with law in the age group of 16-18 involved in heinous offence to be tried as an adult under certain circumstances . The Act does not, however, make it mandatory for all children in this age group to be tried as adults. The amendment was proposed against the backdrop of Nirbhaya Delhi Gang Rape Case in which one of the offenders was 6 months short to attain the age of 18 years.
Additionally the government cited National Crime Records Bureau Data (NCRB) stating that there has been significant increase in crimes committed by juveniles especially in the age group of 16-18 years. NCRB data shows that the percentage of juvenile crimes, when seen in proportion to total crimes, has increased from 1% in 2003 to 1.2% in 2013. During the same period, a percentage of all juveniles accused of crimes increased from 54% to 66%.
At present, everyone knows that there is an increasing rate of juvenile crimes and this increasing rate is creating a debatable issue of age determination. Age determination is considered indispensable in determining the maturity level of accused. According to sub- section 12 of Section 2 of The Juvenile (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 a child means a person who has not completed eighteen years of age.
The Act classifies the term child into two categories:
- child in conflict with law and
- child in need of care and protection
The increasing crime at such an alarming rate is raising a question that whether a juvenile can be tried as an adult or not?
One of the key observations was that essentially, the trial in the regular court is offence-oriented; in the juvenile court, it is offender-oriented. In other words, in the children’s court, societal safety and the child’s future are balanced. For an adult offender, prison is the default opinion; for a juvenile it is the last resort.
Thus, the present Juvenile Law in India, considers Age Determination as a paramount importance to find out whether the offender falls under the purview of Juvenile Justice Act.
According to the Act, the maximum tenure of punishment which can be given to the juvenile offenders is three years and this punishment is valid for heinous crime also. In case of an adult offender, the maximum punishment which can be given is 7 years or life imprisonment or death penalty. The reformation type of punishment under the Act includes: – Sending juvenile to Rehabilitation Centers , Juvenile Schools or making them involve in various program headed by government or NGO’S.