The Union Cabinet has cleared the bill to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, which among other things, will allow the courts to treat minors above the age of 16, accused in serious crimes as adults. The government plans to introduce the bill in the current session of Parliament.
Currently, the maximum punishment under the Juvenile Justice Act is three years’ confinement at correctional homes.
There’s enough evidence to suggest that the age brackets are an important parameter to consider in dealing with juvenile justice. The chart below shows how juvenile crime (number of juveniles apprehended) has changed over the years. The data is from National Crime Records Burea.
Juveniles Apprehended by Age Groups
It is evident that the stories in the three age brackets are very different.
In the age bracket, 7-12 years, number of crimes has actually gone down significantly. It is a 63% drop between 2003 to 2013. That is an average 9% year on year drop.
In the age bracket, 13-16 years, there has been a 14% growth in these 10 years, which translates to 1% average annual growth (CAGR). That is far lower than the growth in overall crime rate.
It is the age bracket of 17-18 years which has actually seen a steep rise in number of juveniles being apprehended. The growth is 60% or a CAGR of 5%.
According to some lawyers, in India, many people in villages and small towns, do not have proper birth records. The lawyers, who know that this is a sure shot way of escaping punishment, often use this to their advantage. So, many offenders, who are actually 22, 23 or even more, escape by claiming they are below 18.
The new changes in Juvenile Justice Act would precisely be able to tackle this problem.