Childhood is a notion that is subject to constant revision in any given era or place – this phrase has assumed significant importance in the present legal scenario making it inevitable to analyse if this understanding is indeed true or not. In the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case in India, a big question has arisen with regard to the correctness of the existing age of criminal responsibility in India. The following Essay delves into this issue and attempts to draw a suitable conclusion with regard to the effectiveness of the Indian Juvenile Justice system. The present age of criminal responsibility in India according to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection for Children) Act, 2000 is 18 years. Juvenile offenders are accorded special treatment under this Act and are not tried in the same Courts as adult offenders. The Essay explores the genesis and jurisprudence behind such law through a study of the UN Conventions. The Essay also tries to understand if there exists a need for changing the current age and making special provisions foe serious offences. The Essay further touches upon certain important issues including how stricter laws may prove counter-productive for offenders who are forced into crime owing to the social environment they are brought up in, and if the punishment should depend on the mental and intellectual capability of each juvenile offender. Lastly, the Essay proposes certain changes with regard to the Indian Juvenile Justice System to make it more effective.
The minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) is the age below which a person is completely immune from any criminal liability due to lack of maturity and judgement to understand the consequences of one’s actions. Next comes the age below which a person is considered vulnerable and immature and hence cannot be made fully responsible for ones actions. This is the period of childhood and adolescence and crime committed during this stage is dealt with by most nations under special laws known as juvenile justice laws. Juvenile delinquency is on the increase today and one of the major issues faced by the world. India is also struggling with juveniles committing serious and grave offences. Thus arises the question if the juvenile laws in the country are too soft and require improvements. How does one ascertain the reasonable punishment for a child? How does one ensure deterrence as well as restoration?