You know we read in the papers, And we hear on the air
Of killing and stealing, And crime everywhere
And we sigh and we say, As we notice the trend
This young generation, Where will it end
But can we be sure, That it’s their fault alone
I mean, that maybe a, Part of it isn’t our own
Are we less guilty, Who place in their way
Too many things, That lead them astray
Like too much money to spend, And too much idle time
Too many movies, The kind of passion and crime
Too many books, man, That are not even fit to be read
Too much evil in what they hear said
And too many children, Encouraged to roam
By too many parents, Who won’t even stay at home
Well, man, kids don’t make the movies, And they don’t write the books
And they don’t go out, And paint gay pictures, Of gangsters and crooks
They don’t make the liquor, And they don’t run the bars
And they don’t make the laws, And they don’t buy the cars
They don’t peddle junk that, Well, that addles the brain
That’s all done by older folks, man, Greedy for gain
Delinquent teenagers, oh, man, How quick we do condemn
The sins of a nation, And then go and blame it on them
But the laws that are blameless, The Savior makes known,
Now you tell me who is there, Among us to cast the first stone
For in so many cases, It’s sad but it’s true
That the title Delinquent, Fits older folks too
-Don’t Blame The Children, Sammy Davis Jr.
These lines perfectly encapsulate the current quandary that faces our children with the amendments that are soon expected to be made to the Juvenile Justice Bill. In July 2013, in the case of Salil Bali versus Union of India, the Supreme Court observed that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, was meant to be “restorative and not retributive, providing for rehabilitation and re-integration of children in conflict with the law into mainstream society”. It also observed that the age of eighteen was set given by the understanding of child psychology experts on “behavioral patterns based on the fact that children in conflict with law could still be restored to mainstream society”. The Union Cabinet’s nod to the amendments made to the Juvenile Justice Bill will effectively allow children aged 16-18 to be tried and punished as adults for heinous crimes, including murder and rape.
Historically speaking, India even a 100 years ago, was a country that sought a juvenile justice system that stressed on the need to have separate courts for children, and looked at ways to ensure that there is greater emphasis on the reformation of juvenile prisoners. But the Cabinet nod to the amendments unfortunately means that it would push first time juvenile offenders into a merciless system which could view them as adults.
In its current form, the definition of “heinous” seems to be too broad and can potentially include offenders from crimes not included under the IPC, including narcotic drugs and related acts. There is an added fear that such a Bill would further victimize children belonging to marginalized groups. The actual number of juvenile offenders is quite insignificant and state governments can formulate programs for such children with a view to reform and rehabilitate them. Ideally what our children require is a reformative and rehabilitative system that assesses the needs of juveniles. Shouldn’t our children get the opportunity to reform? Shouldn’t they be hopeful of a better future that could rehabilitate them and get them back into the mainstream?