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Juvenile Delinquency- a social deviance By - Aditi Srivastava

Juvenile Delinquency- a social deviance

Authored By - Aditi Srivastava



This research paper describes the various factors associated with juvenile delinquency and causes that lead to adolescent misconduct. Youth is the most important determinant of the future of any nation. Delinquency refers to abnormality and when a juvenile exhibits such behaviour which may prove dangerous for the society and deviates from the course of normal life is called as juvenile delinquent. Growth of a child depends upon his upbringing and the atmosphere around him, hence it becomes important to provide children a healthy environment for better conditioning of their future.  The Great Noble laureate Gabriel Mistral has commented in this regard as, “We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the foundation of life Many of things we need can wait, the child cannot, right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made and his senses are being developed. To him, we cannot answer ‘tomorrow’.”


Keywords: Juvenile, delinquency, deviance, doli incapax, prevention



The word deviance can be described as a behaviour that violates the social norms and disturbs the functioning of a society as a whole. French sociologist, Emile Durkheim stated deviance as an inevitable part of how society functions and declared it as a basis of change and innovation.[1] Deviance can be criminal or non-criminal and people who indulge in such activities are called as deviants.


On the other hand, delinquency refers to any behaviour which is against the acceptable societal norms and may prove to be dangerous to other people and society in general. Hence, Juvenile Delinquency is the involvement of youngsters in illegal activities which deviate them from the course of normal life. British psychologist, Cyril Burt purposed that “A child is to be regarded as technically a delinquent when his antisocial tendencies become so grave that he becomes, or ought to become, the subject of official action."[2] It is also known as “juvenile offending” and the laws related to it differs from state to state.


Children are the future of the country. They are the biggest assets of a nation and are a great concern in the present situation. It is important to understand the factors that hamper their nurturing as it not only affects the victim of the crime but also the juvenile delinquents, their families and the society. Therefore, with proper guidance and support a minor child can be trained and rehabilitated so that crimes in the future can be prevented beforehand. Adolescence is often known as a transitional period for any individual in which one passes through a rollercoaster of emotions such as mental, physical, moral, sexual, spiritual and social which often leads to emotional instability and give rise to conflicts and complexities in their lives. Thus, in this paper we will discuss the history and evolution of Juvenile Justice System in India along with the causes of Juvenile Delinquency and suggestions to curb this problem. At last, we will find out that how important it is for the State to intervene in such matters.


Research methodology

This research is mostly based on doctrinal method which is of descriptive and analytical nature. Most of the content is theoretical and is derived from the secondary sources. The approach of this paper is more inclined towards qualitative method. The aim of this research was to discover the root causes and factors of delinquency and provide solutions for the same.


History of Juvenile Justice System in India

Definition of Juvenile:

Juvenile is a child who cannot be held liable for his criminal act. The Juvenile Justice Act 1986 defines juvenile as a person below 16 years of the age if it’s a boy and 18 years in case of a girl. However, Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection Act), 2000 removed this distinction and set uniform age of 18 years for both boys and girls.



The Apprentice Act 1850 was the first legislation of juvenile justice system in India which stated that children between the age of 10 to 18 years should be treated as apprentices and should be provided vocational training as a part of their rehabilitation process. This act was transplanted by Reformatory Schools Act 1897 which provided children up to 15 years of age to go to reformatory cell. Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2000 which came into force with effect on December 30, 2000 prior to which Juvenile Justice Act 1986 w.e.f. October 2, 1987 was operative in the country. This act was in tune with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the organisation of Juvenile Justice and India was the first country to advance its framework and evolve its own system to prevent and control juvenile delinquencies. The objective of this act was to take all the participatory models into consideration to ensure well being of the juveniles. The Government of India re-enacted Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2000 which has been implemented since April 1, 2001 and standardised the approach of towards adolescent equity with regards to arrangements of the Constitution of India and international obligations. Lastly Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act 2015 brought major amendments were made to the earlier act as it aimed to treat the juveniles who are in the age group of 16 to 18 years as adults for heinous and serious crimes which are punishable for imprisonment for 7 years or more. This Act presented ideas from Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country, 1993 which were absent in the previous act to influence the adoption process of  orphaned, surrendered and abandoned children more streamlined.


Causes of Juvenile Delinquency

It is important to understand what factors influence the child to commit a crime in order to provide the best environment to him so that he could grow up to his full stature.

  1. Biological / Individual factors

A minor who does not receive proper education may indulge into delinquent behaviour. Apart from this hormonal changes in adolescences like aggression, uncontrolled, rebellious and impulsive behaviour. Hence all these can have

psychological and physiological impact on a child.

  1. Family factors

This factor includes lack of parental supervision or even ongoing parental conflicts can be associated with delinquent behaviour among young people. Parents who are harsh towards their children or often punish them, children tend to indulge in bad company and eventually end up hiding a lot of things from them. If the parents are negligent towards the law and societal norms will develop the same habits in their children as well. Therefore, children who have weakest attachment to their families are more likely to conduct inappropriate activities.

  1. Substance abuse factors

This factor is most commonly found in juveniles at an early stage nowadays. Students of elementary schools are found to be consuming powerful drugs, hence they develop an addiction for which they commit delinquent activities in order to get money for the drugs. Also they are more likely to indulge into illegal activities in a state of intoxication.

  1. Economic factors

Industrialization and growth rise people standards of living due to which they are shifting to urban areas to live a more luxurious life for which both the parents need to work and hence they hardly spend any time with their children. As a result lack of parental control, love and affection, unsatisfactory desires push them towards wrong paths.


Statistics of Juvenile Delinquency in India (quantitative method)

42% of total population in India comprises of people below the age of 18 years hence making it a country with the largest youth population. The NCRB data of 2016 that juveniles arrested are of 16 years or more out which only 45% completed their primary education. [3]

However, The National Crime Bureau (NCRB) data of 2019 showed a rise in the crimes committed by juveniles as compared to 2017 and 2018, as 2,677 crimes were reported in 2017, 2,388 in 2018 and 2,760 crimes were committed in 2019. Also another piece of data showed that more than 12,000 juveniles arrested in Delhi (till October 8, 2020) were first- time offenders. The NCRB data also compared the incidences in 19 metropolitan cities from 2017 to 2019 in which Delhi ranked first.[4]


Some cases involving juvenile delinquents:


  • The Nirbhaya case: this was the most brutal and heinous crimes which involved a juvenile delinquent. Six men gang raped a paramedical student on 16 December 2012 in a moving bus leading to the death of the victim few weeks later. One of the convict was a juvenile and as per the then existing law, maximum punishment that could be given to a child was three years of detention in a remand home. This decision was highly resented by the public and hence it gave rise to Juvenile Justice Amendment 2015 which stated that the juvenile between the age bracket of 16-18 years committing heinous crime such as rape, murder and robbery should be treated as an adult.


  • Kathua rape case: In 2018 an eight-year-old girl was raped and killed in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir. Two of the accused took the plea that they were juvenile. The Indian government cleared the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 which introduced death penalty for rape of a girl below 12 years of age.


  • Mercedes hit and run case: In 2016, the teenager ran over a marketing executive while driving is father’s Mercedes. This was the first case which was resolved by the juvenile justice act of 2015. The case was transferred to the city court as the board observed that the minor was matured enough to understand the consequences of his wrongdoing.[5]


 Juvenile Justice and Constitution of India:

Part III of the constitution defines the Fundamental Rights and Part IV provides the Directive Principles of State Policies (DPSP) which act as general guidelines for framing government policies. The Constitution has some provisions for the welfare of the children. Article 21(A) provides free and compulsory elementary education for children under the age of 6 to 14 years. According to Article 24 children under the age of 14 years have the right to be protected from any hazardous employment. Article 39(e) provides right to protected from being abused in any form by an adult. Right to be provided by good nutrition and proper standard of living is given by Article 47. Right to be protected from human trafficking and bonded labour is guaranteed by Article 39. Lastly Article 15(3) entitles special powers to the State to make any special laws for the upliftment and the betterment of children and woman.[6]

Furthermore, the Indian Penal Code Act, 1860, Criminal Strategy Code, 1861 and 1876 reformatory schools act are some other legislations that treat children with different methodology. These laws give delinquents some special provisions with regards to rehabilitation.

Doctrine of Doli Incapax

The doctrine of doli incapax means the incapability to do a crime. In India the Indian Criminal Procedure considers that no juvenile under or of the age of 7 years is capable of having a moral process to commit a crime and hence he/she should not be prosecuted for the same. Doli incapax is discussed it section 82 and 83 of the Indian Penal Code and the Juvenile Justice Act.[7] Article 40(3)(a) of the United Nations Convention states that every country must mention the minimum age of the children who should be exempted from any kind of criminal liability.


Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill, 2021

To strengthen the provisions for the adoption and protection of child, the lok sabha passed the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Bill, 2021. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) audit of Child Care Institutions (CCIs) in 2020, found that around 39% of CCIs were not registered even after the amendment brought in Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2015. Less than 20% of CCIs for girls had not been setup in some states and 26% child welfare officers were not there. Also three-fifths have no toilets and one-tenth have no drinking water, hence rehabilitation is not a priority for children of childcare homes and there was need of this amendment bill. According to the present act an offence which is punishable with imprisonment (3-7years) is cognizable and non-bailable so the bill amends this provision and provides that such offences are non-cognizable. Juvenile Justice Board will inquire about the child accused for a serious offence (serious offences are those with imprisonment between three to seven years). The bill also provides that instead of the courts the District Magistrate will issue the adoption orders and any aggrieved  person may file an appeal before the Divisional Commissioner within 30 days from the date when the order was passed. All the offences under the earlier act shall be tried in the children’s court. A person will not be eligible to be the member of the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) if he/she has any record of human or child rights violation, has been convicted of an offence of immorality, has been removed from the service of the central government or any government undertaking or is a part of any child care institution in the district. The state government can terminate any member if they fail to end the proceeding of CWCs for three months consecutively or less than three-fourths of the sittings in a year.[8]


Analysis, suggestions and recommendations

In India, juvenile delinquency rate is increasing at an alarming rate. They will become habitual offenders if they are not prevented from doing so on time. The government of India has taken many steps to deal with this issue but apart from that societal steps are also necessary to diminish juvenile delinquencies. Juvenile Delinquency Prevention is a broad term which means all the efforts taken to prevent the juveniles from doing anti-social activities. The services can include youth mentoring, family counselling, educational support, substance abuse education and treatment etc.

Following are some methods which could help in the juvenile delinquency problem-

  • Clinical programme- children are provided with aids through psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and social workers. They help in investigating cases selected for treatment of behavioural problems in children.
  • Education- institutions are play significant part in a child’s life and almost every other child goes to school, hence launching preventive programmes there will be favourable for them. Teachers should help the students and provide them moral education which would be beneficial for them to turn out into a good human in their lives.
  • Mental health- mental therapy would help in the development of high sentimental values in child. Seminars and awareness programs should be provided by the government for the welfare of juveniles.
  • Sports and Recreational Programmes- in order to help juveniles connect with the society, youth programs like sports, dancing, drama, art, music etc  should be organised in observation homes and educational institutions.
  • Family environment- the environment at home plays a major role in the nurturing of a child. Parental love, care and affection is very important to prevent him/her from committing any crime. Hence there should be a quality and healthy relationship between the family members and the children
  • Mass media- televisions, magazines, radio etc should present real and genuine reports and analyze the true causes of juvenile delinquency.
  • Community assistance- a social worker should be associated with the investigation process along with the police. Also instead of reaching out to agencies and social workers, community programmes should be promoted and local community participation such as of neighbours, people living in the locality should make efforts to improve the environment around the residence of children and provide them with a natural and clean society.



The society and the legal system, both play an equal role in the well being of the juveniles. Juvenile delinquency is a grave offence which that should not be neglected by a nation. Exploitation of children has been seen from a very long time whether be it physical, mental or sexual in nature. Family and societal obligations should not have affect the children in a negative way as it would lead to low self-esteem and mental trauma and depression among the youth which in turn becomes the cause for juvenile delinquency. Rather focusing on the punitive measures, the State should bring in polices and reformative methods for the welfare of the delinquents. As Abraham Lincoln rightly said “A child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. He is going to sit where you are sitting, and when you are gone; attend to those things, which you think are important. You may adopt all policies you please, but how they are carried out depends on him. He will assume control of your cities, states and nations. All your books are going to be judged, praised or condemned by him. The fate of humanity is in his hands. So it might be well to pay him some attention.”


Therefore, effective implementation of juvenile laws and sensitive treatment by the board members of the juvenile justice is the need of the hour in order to handle such cases. The best institution to keep a check on the deviant behaviour of children is the family and hence their development begins from their homes and schools. Juveniles should be constantly uplifted and should be made to realise that they have a constructive role to play for the society and hence the future of the country depends on them. They must be filled with the feeling of responsibility which would help them to build a bright future for themselves. The government of India has no doubt taken a lot of steps towards the issue of juvenile delinquency but along with that community participation and sensitization is also very important to prevent children from indulging into peculiar and deviant behaviour.



[1] Gloria Lotha, sociological perspectives, deviance (Nov 26, 2018) https://www.britannica.com/topic/deviance/Sociological-perspectives


[2] Edyell, B., The University of Chicago Press, International journal of ethics (july, 1926) http://www.jstor.org/stable/2377638

[3] Shivangi tiwari, analytical study of juvenile delinquency in india  (july 6, 2019), https://jcil.lsyndicate.com/

[4] Abhay Singh, a discomfiting truth (Jan 23, 2021, 11:44 PM), http://www.millenniumpost.in/

[5] Ibid at 3

[6] Purti Vyas, an analytal study of juvenile justice system in india, (April 24, 2018) https://blog.ipleaders.in/juvenile-justice-system-india/

[7] Naina Jacob, doli incapax, (July 27, 2019), https://lawtimesjournal.in/

[8] Social justice, The Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill, 2021 (March 25, 2021),  https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/the-juvenile-justice-amendment-bill-2021


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