Juvenile criminals between 16 and 18 years accounted for more than 60% of the crimes registered against minors in India last year, recently released figures of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) have revealed.
Of the 43,506 crimes registered against minors under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Special Local Law (SLL) by juveniles, 28,830 had been committed by those between the ages of 16 to 18.
In Maharashtra the number is more alarming. Of the 8,012 cases against juveniles last year, 5,594 were committed by minors over 16.
The statistics also show the number of juveniles found to be in conflict with law under the IPC and the SLL has risen 13.6% and 2.5% respectively in 2013, as compared with 2012. The Union cabinet had, last week, approved an amendment to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, to treat minors older than 16 years as adults, if charged with serious crimes such as rape.
However, they will not be sentenced to life or death if found guilty.
Currently, if the accused are found to be under 18 years of age, they are tried by the Juvenile Justice Board and, if convicted, is sent to a juvenile home for three years. An adult convicted of rape faces life term, and death sentence in case of repeat offence.
According to sources in the police, increasing number of juveniles are found to be involved in serious crimes.
According to NCRB statistics in 2013, the rise in crimes against women committed by juveniles was highest in cases where the modesty of a woman was outraged (132.3%) followed by word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman (70.5%) and rape (60.3%).
“There are several factors for the rise in crime by juveniles. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi rightly pointed out in his speech on Independence Day, there is a need for parents to take account of their children,” said eminent lawyer Majeed Memon.
The ongoing debate about the age of juveniles between 16 and 18 years first began after the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case in New Delhi, in which one of the main accused was a juvenile. While the others accused in the case were given death, the minor accused was sent to a remand home for three years.
Similarly in the August 2013 Shakti Mill case in the city, in which a 22-year old photojournalist was raped, by four adults and a juvenile — the juvenile got just three years at a children’s correction home at Nashik.