Juvenile Delinquency

By Geethu Hanna John


Juvenile is a term used to relate to a young person who is not yet old enough to be considered as an adult. Juveniles also commit crimes or act against the law. This leads to Juvenile Delinquency. It is very much necessary to check the juveniles whether they are acting against the law and prevent them from being Juvenile Delinquent. In this essay, we are going to discuss the meaning, types, measures and the steps taken by the Government to prevent Juvenile Delinquency.

Meaning of Juvenile Delinquency

To understand the meaning of Juvenile Delinquency, it is crucial to look upon the meaning of ‘Juvenile’. The definition of Juvenile is given in Section 2(k) in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children ) Act 2000-

“juvenile” or “child” means a person who has not completed the eighteenth year of age; 3[(1) juvenile in conflict with the law means a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence and has not completed eighteen years of age as on the date of commission of such offence.[1]

According to the definition under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, a juvenile is a person who has not completed 18 years of age. The etymological meaning of ‘delinquency’ is derived from the Latin word delinquer

Means to ‘omit’. Romans used this term to indicate any failure to accomplish a task or duty. The Juvenile Delinquency refers to the misbehaviour of children and adolescents against the norms of the society, and punishments are approved by society. There are many definitions related to Juvenile Delinquency. They are as follows-

“The term juvenile delinquency applies to the violation of criminal code and pursuit of certain parts of behaviour disapproved for children and young adolescents.”

                                                                        -Walter Reckless (1957)[2]

“Juvenile delinquency cases are those referred to court for acts defined in the statutes of the state as the violation of the state law or municipal ordinance by children or youth of juvenile court ages or for conducts so seriously anti-social as to interfere with the rights of others or to menace the welfare of the delinquent himself or of the community.”

                                                                                                 -Children’s Bureau US Federal Agency, USA

Section 2 (e) of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 defines Juvenile Delinquency as follows-

“Delinquent juvenile” means a juvenile who has been found to have committed an offence.

Theories of Juvenile Delinquency

There are many theories regarding Juvenile Delinquency from the earliest period; they are as follows-

  1. Pre- scientific Theory

 This theory was the earliest of all theories. It was developed to explain that there was no distinction between adult and juvenile crimes. All the laws applied to all the people regardless of their age. These were based on moralistic ideologies of the society, and the leaders of the theories were Della Porte Lavater Gall, Spurzhein Etc.[3]

  • Sociological Theories-
  • Merton’s Anomic Theory

 It is also called the normlessness theory. It states that strains created by the disjunction between social goals and structures means are the cause of juvenile Delinquency.

  • Rod theory of Delinquent gang boys

Albert K.Ohens developed this theory in 1955 which states that delinquent subculture takes its norms from more significant subculture but turns it upside down. The delinquent theory in the gang

 neglects norms of the larger society.

Theory of self

George Herbert Meads developed this theory in 1918. Becoming a delinquent is not only related to lawbreakers, but also it is indispensable to prevent this by finding the meaningful, supportive, and committed to the law.

  • Gang Theory

Fredric Thrasher developed this theory in 1927. It states that juvenile Delinquency is a subculture found in lower castes, and they are passed from generation to generation. They are created by spontaneous playgroups and the conflict between them. They are created because of the lack of protection from their family members and their environment.

  • Opportunity Structure Theory

Cloward and Ohin formulated this theory in 1960 which states that there are three types of illegal opportunities available for juveniles- “criminal gang, conflict gang and the drug-oriented gang”. They are caused by internet frustration and stress.

  • Lack of power theory

Maxwell Gerald gave this theory in 1969. When children are outside their peer groups, they have less personal power. So the delinquent behaviour is an attempt their power among the peer groups.

By analyzing the above theories, it is clear that all these theories have strengths and weaknesses. Tackling the problem of juvenile Delinquency is complex and challenging.

History of Juvenile Delinquency-

          Juvenile Delinquency is a global issue, and it is increasing day by day. In early 1994, there was a significant rise in juvenile violent crimes and converting them to super -predators with the increasing population of them in the 21st Century[4]. Juvenile Delinquency increased up to 26% or more than that in 1975 in the United States; this was the report of Uniform Crime Reports. Most of the juvenile crimes were not reported undetected by the police. They had terrible effects like financial losses, socially psychological crisis. Instead of dealing with correction and rehabilitation of the youths, the authorities focused on the mechanical detection systems, judicial and policy agencies, and insurance to decrease the juvenile Delinquency[5]. Turkey attracted Juvenile Juvenile Justice System because of their strong bond with their family institutions which lead them to a low rate of Juvenile Delinquency. The Turkish scholar, Nephan Sevan, found out in the age of 16 to 18, theft violence, sexual offences, smuggling, and pickpocketing are most prevalent. The causes of this behaviour are crowded families, poor housing, Unemployment and cultural conflict.[6]

         Developed and developing countries like U.S.A developed the efforts for better Juvenile system. To solve the problem of Juvenile’s attendance, protection and assistance, an international summit was called upon in the 1990s where the international framework of rules and regulations for Juvenile Justice System was adopted. Many countries adopted provisions which took age into account and formulated laws that treat them differently than them differently than the adults. Most of them assured to protect children’s rights. For instance, five countries banned death penalties for under 18 years of age. Special efforts were taken to diminish juvenile Delinquency by ensuring educational opportunities, healthy environment, stable family relations and counselling. 

Causes of Juvenile Delinquency-

A juvenile commits a crime because of some reasons, and understanding Them is the key to solve juvenile Delinquency. The factors that cause juvenile Delinquency are as follows-

  1. Poor School Attendance

Schools encourage children to follow a disciplined routine that leads to good habits. When they stop attending schools, they choose to get rid of the right habits and do whatever they like.

  1. Poor Educational Standards

Delinquent behaviour can also arise because of poor education that they get from overcrowded and underfunded schools. The chaos created by the schools and lack of parental care can lead to criminal activities.

  1. Violence in the Home

The troubled teens who are prone to violence and being witnessed by the violence at home have a natural tendency to harm others and take out their anger upon others. They do not care about anything and invites trouble in their lives.

  1. Violence in their School circles

When children are exposed to violent neighbourhoods, they start to imitate violent people or the gang for means of survival. They try to do criminal activities to be part of the violent community in order to survive.

  • Peer Pressure

If the child’s friends are doing delinquent acts, the child will do violent crimes to impress and gain acceptance among their friends. The best way to prevent peer pressure is to get the child away from that type of groups.

  • Socio-Economic Factors

The delinquent juveniles are more found in more mediocre areas of society because of the lack of opportunities to prosper and get ahead of life.

  • Lack of moral support

Parental influence or guidance plays a vital role in curtailing Delinquency. Parents should communicate and bond with their children to understand and guide them to distinguish right and wrong. They should give them a chance to correct their own children’s errors and help them to start a better new life.

Types of Juvenile Delinquency

Many scholars categorized Juvenile Delinquency in various ways on a different basis they are as follows-

Griffin (1978) classified them as

  1.  Juvenile offenders
  2.  Arrested juveniles
  3.  Adjusted juveniles

Hirsh (1937) (based on offences committed)

I. Incorrigibility          II. Truancy

III. Larceny                IV. Destruction of property

V. Violence

Robert Trojanowier (1975)

I. Accidental Unsocialist        ll. Aggressive  

III.Occasional.                        IV.Professional

V. Gang Organized

  Criminologist classification-

  1. Mandatory Juvenile Offender or Habitual Offender
  2. Violent Juvenile Offender (above the age of 13 years of age)
  3. Aggravate juvenile offender (above 12 years of age and committed felony.[7]

Children Act, 1960

  1. Neglected Child- Section 2 (e); These types of children should be produced before the police or probation officer or remand home.
  2. Uncontrollable Child- Section 17; These type of should be under Child Service Board or Juvenile Court by parents or guardians.
  3. Delinquent Child- Section 18; These children should be brought before police and then Juvenile Court.[8]

Juvenile Justice Act, 1986

  1. Neglected Juvenile – Section 2(l)
  2. Delinquent Juvenile – Section 2(e)[9]

Juvenile Justice (care and protection of Children) Act 2000[10]

  1. Juvenile in conflict with the law- Section 2(l); these types of children should be brought under the Juvenile Justice Board.
  2. Child in need of protection and Care- Section 2 (d); these types of children should be taken care of under the Child Welfare Committee.[11]

Developments in Juvenile Justice Act in India

A new era began for the children in the country after Independence. The constitution of India also intends to protect, develop, fulfil the needs and rights through ‘fundamental rights’, ‘fundamental duties’ and ‘Directive principles of state policy’.

  1. The Children Act, 1960

After partition, the number of delinquent and homeless children increased. There was a problem in big cities where the delinquent acts were at rising; the most common offence was theft. So the Government enacted Children’s Act in 1960.

The principles of risings Act were as follows-

  • The Act provided Care, Protection, Welfare, Education and improvement if neglected and delinquent children.
  • The detention of children by any Act was forbidden under any occurrences.
  • Children’s Court and Child Welfare Board are the two legal bodies to deal with the delinquent children.
  • The three-tier institution was introduced-
    • Children who stayed under pendency of their proceedings had to be kept in an observation home.
    • Neglected Children should live in the Children’s Home.
    • Special School for Delinquent Children.
  • They introduced the sex discriminatory definition of ‘Child’.

   “Child in case of a boy is below sixteen years and in case if girls below eighteen years of age.[12]

  • The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986
  • It promoted justice for juveniles by encompassing the essential provisions of the Indian Constitution, National Policy Resolution for Children 1974. It added the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Child 1959 and United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice 1985.
  • This Act repealed the detention of children in the police station or jail.
  • Delinquent activities are there to be dealt with the Juvenile Welfare Board and Juvenile Court.
  • Special homes, Observation homes and after-care homes were established for delinquent children.[13]
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000
  • The enactment of law endorsed with the “justice” and the “rights” by using the two new terminologies for children – “juveniles in conflict with law” and “children in need of protection and care.
  • A juvenile is contemplated to be a person below eighteen years of age, regardless of their sex.
  • Juvenile Justice Board deals with Juveniles in conflict with the law, and the Child Welfare Committee deals with children in the necessity of protection and care.
  • To prevent Delinquency, the Act encourages the parents and the guardians to counsel and guide their children.
  • Community Programs were also submitted for juveniles [14]
  • The Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children) (Amendment) Act 2006
  • The juvenility would be evaluated from the date of commission of the offence who have not completed the age of 18 years thus elucidating vagueness put forward in Pratyaya Amrit vs State of Bihar[15].
  • The Juvenile should not be kept in a police lockup or jail.
  • CJM or CMM has the right to evaluate the pendency of cases in the Board of every six months.
  • The Child Protection Units should be established in each state to inspect the undertaking of the Act.[16]
  • The Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children) (Amendment) Act 2015
  • This Act strengthened provisions to protect the juveniles in conflict with the law.
  • It also included the egregious offences committed by children.
  • Powers, functions and responsibilities of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) and Child Welfare Committee (CWC) are illustrated under this Act.
  • It opened the timelines for the examination of the Juvenile Justice Board.
  • Special provisions were ascertained for severe offences perpetrated by the children above the age of sixteen years.
  • It also comprised a new Chapter on Adoption to streamline adoption of orphan abandoned and suffered children.
  • This Act made the registration of Child Care Institutions compulsory and contained new offences committed by children.[17]

Landmark Case of Juvenile Delinquency

Nirbhaya Case [18]

Facts of the Case

  1. It was a cold chilly day on 16 December 2012. This is the case about two people, 23-year-old women named Jyoti Singh Pandey and her friend Awindra Pratap Pandey who were returning home after watching a movie South Delhi.
  2. They waited for the bus to come and when the bus arrived one of the people on the bus emptied bus tinted windows.
  3. There was five adults and one Juvenile in the bus who was 17 years of age.
  4. All of them tried to satisfy their unusual inclination and tried to rape her.
  5. Her friend was brutally beaten up [ by the abused person.
  6. After the friend of the rape victim was beaten up, the female, Jyoti Singh Pandey was raped, beaten, and tortured in the bus.
  7. She was viciously raped and sexually abused which against humanity.
  8. Their cruel acts include pulling out intestine and inserting iron in her private part.

Issues of the Case

Whether the Juvenile is liable for capital punishment or not?

The judgement of the Case

  1. The Supreme Court declared capital punishment for four victims who brutally raped 23-year-old women on moving bus on 16 December 2012 in New Delhi. Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh were declared to be hanged by the high court. Three judges seat headed by Dipak Mishra articulated decision.
  2. Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh were given capital punishment in this case.
  3. The Supreme Court asserted capital punishment granted by the Delhi High Court in March 2014
  4. The supreme court called the gang rape Barbaric and devilish.
  5. The new Juvenile justice act of 2016, which includes the Juvenile of age group 16-18 who have involved severe crimes shall be punished as adults in case of conflicts with the law. 


The abuse created by the delinquent activities of children has a long-lasting effect on the children. The causes of this issue rise from the adverse effects of abusive family, environment, friends and society. These have a terrible influence on juveniles like physical, mental and sexual abuse. It is clear that the total elimination of this issue is not possible, but we can control this by giving proper education, parental care, livelihood, protection and implementing laws. The Government should protect children from poverty, rights, and privileges. Everyone in the society has responsibility in uplifting these children, instilling moral values and finding confidence in building a productive society.

[1] Act no. 56 of 2000

[2] Walter. C. Reckless, The Crime Problem (Indian Reprint,1971)

[3] Griffin B.S. & Griffin C.T. ‘Op.cit’, p.36

[4] Redding, Richard E, Adult punishment for juvenile offenders: does it reduce crime? In Padmaja K. (e.d), ‘Juvenile delinquency’, ICFAI uty Press, p.156. 

[5] Griffin B. S. and Griffin n C.T. ‘Op.cit.’ , p.32

[6] Paranjape N.V. (2004), ‘Criminology and Penology’, Central Law Pub., p.383

[7] Padmaja k. (e.d) (2007), ‘Juvenile Delinquency’, ICFAI uty. Press, p.156

[8] C.33

[9] Act no. 53 of 1986, 1 December (1986)

[10] Provisions for Juvenile Delinquency are the remedial measures while provision for children in need of care and protection are the preventive measure.

[11] Act no. 56 of 2000

[12] C.33

[13] Act no. 53 of 1986, 1 December (1986)

[14]Act no. 56 of 2000

[15] Pratyaya Amrit vs state of Bihar & Anr on 29 August 2018

[16] Act no. 33 of 2006 (22 August 2006)

[17] Act no. 2 of 2016

[18] Mukesh & Anr vs State For Nct Of Delhi & Ors on 5 May, 2017

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