Rapes by juveniles have increased fivefold in a decade since 2000, when its definition was modified to include children of 16 to 18 years under the category.
The year 2011 recorded 1,149 rapes by juveniles — most of them between 16-18 years. In 2000, the number was just 198.
As per the modified Juvenile Justice Act, the maximum punishment for a crime committed by a juvenile is three years — as compared to imprisonment of up to life for the same offence committed by adults.
The government had, in accordance with the United Nations child convention, modified The Juvenile Justice Act in 2000 and brought children between 16-18 years under the protection of the law — which offers them the opportunity to reform.
However, after the horrifying Delhi gangrape case where a juvenile was also involved, there is growing demand that juveniles between 16 to 18 years be punished like adults for heinous crimes. Of the six persons involved in the rape, the 17-year-old had purportedly abused the 23-year-old woman in the most inhuman manner.
Data available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) also indicated that crimes being committed by juveniles are on the rise.
There was a 171% jump in juvenile crimes since 2000. As many as 25,125 crimes were committed by juveniles in 2011, a record-high number that corresponds with the alarming increase over the last decade.
The inclusion of children in the age group of 16-18 in 2000 accounted for the spurt in cases under the juvenile-delinquency head. In 2000, the number of juvenile crimes across the country was 9,267. In 2001, such offences had shot up to 16,509 — a 80% jump in a single year.
Pointing to the worsening trend, the NCRB says that about 65% of such juveniles booked under the Indian Penal Code are between 16 and 18 years of age (2010-11).
“The increasing trend in the incidence of juvenile crimes is a matter of grave concern,” a government report on children stated, referring to the last decade.