Their tender age is an excuse for lighter punishment and the new liberal thinking favours reformation and education of wayward youths.
The law in this country, as in countries all over the world, favours the youth to the maximum extent possible when he is in legal trouble.
A comprehensive law called the Juvenile Justice Act was passed in 1986 to provide for the care, protection, treatment and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent children.
Earlier, there was a model Children’s act at the Centre and different states had different laws on children. But now the Act replaces the old new. A juvenile has been defined as a body under 16 years or a girl less than 18 years.
No such person under any circumstances should be lodged in jail or police lock-up. To ensure this, the Act sets up juvenile Welfare Boards in each state and also juvenile courts.
A delinquent juvenile a child who has committed an offence and a neglected juvenile is one who is:
(1) Found begging,
(2) Found without having any home or means of substance and is a destitute,
(3) Has parent or guardian who is unfit to exercise control over him or her,
(4) Living in a brothel or with a prostitute or is found to associate with any prostitute or any other person who leads an immoral, drunken or depraved life and
(5) Being abused or is likely to be abused or exploited for immoral or illegal purpose.
The Juvenile Welfare Boards and the juvenile courts have exclusive power to deal with the delinquent and neglected children.
These bodies will comprise magistrates, social workers and at least one woman.
The Act also enjoys the State Governments to establish juvenile homes for the neglected children, special homes for the delinquent juveniles and observation homes for juveniles during the tendency of any inquiry regarding them.
The juvenile homes and special homes shall provide not only accommodation, maintenance and facilities for education, vocational training and rehabilitation, but also facilities for the development of character and abilities.
The Act further provides for the establishment by the governments of after-care organisation and schemes for reforming the children.
The Act provides for elaborate procedures in dealing with neglected juvenile and delinquent juveniles and inquiries to be made and the orders that may be passed.
For instance, any neglected child detained should be produced within 24 hours before the welfare board. When a juvenile is arrested for an offence, the parent or guardian should be informed as soon as possible.
Only very few persons are allowed to be present before these authorities when a child’s case is being taken up. They include the officers, the parties to the inquiry and other allowed by the authority.
Lawyers are not allowed, except with special permission. Even the parents and guardians need permission. The report about the juvenile is to be treated as confidential.
While passing orders, the authority will take into consideration the age of the juvenile physical and mental health, background and religion of the child and the inquiry report.
Though the Indian Penal Code lists offences against children, the new Act has added chapter on “special offences in respect of juveniles”.
Anyone who has charge of the juvenile and assaults, abandons, neglects, or causes or procures him or her to be treated like that is liable to be sentenced with six months in jail and fine.
Whoever employs or uses any juvenile for begging shall be punished with three years’ jail and fine.
Whoever gives intoxicating liquor to a juvenile in a public place or any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance except on the direction of a doctor may be punished with three years jail and fine.
Whoever procures a juvenile for employment and withhold the wages shall be punished with three years in jail and fine.
Crimes by Children:
The Indian Penal Code deals with crimes against children. A child under seven years of age is absolutely free from legal responsibility for his actions. He can do no offence.
Nothing is an offence which is done by a child between seven and 12 years, if he has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequence of his actions. His responsibility is limited for his action.
Crimes against Children:
If a person prevents a child being born alive or causes it to die after birth, he may be punished if the act was not done to save the mother. Anyone who conceals the birth of a child by secretly burying its body may be punished with imprisonment.
If a parent abandonees a child under 12 and exposes or leaves it without protection, he will be held guilty.
If the child dies of exposure, the parent can be tried for murder. Section 359 to 374 deal with kidnapping, abdication, slave trade, forced labour and trade in minor girls prostitution.
Kidnapping or miming a minor for employing it for being is punishable with 10 years in jail. Sexual intercourse with a girl under 16 is rape and punishable with life imprisonment even if she had given her consent. Intercourse even with the wife’s consent, if she is under 15, is rape.
The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
The law, also known as the sharada Act, named after its sponsor, sets the minimum age of marriage at 21 for boys and 18 for girls. But a child is not punished for violation of the law. Nor is the marriage invalidated.
Those who perform, conduct or direct a child marriage are punished as abettors, even if they be parents. A boy between 18 and 21, who marriages a minor girl, is given a jail term up to 3 month after a fine. But a girl not punished under any circumstances.
The law tied to protect youth from the harmful influence of publications Glorifying Crime, violence and sex.
The young persons Harmful publications Act, 1956, makes distribution and sale of such material to youth below 21 punishable with imprisonment.
The authorities can seize of such harmful publications and forfeit or destroy them. The concept Act bans import of such harmful materials. The IPC makes distribution or exhibition of obscene objects to your under 20 punishable with imprisonment.
Suits By and Against Children:
The civil procedure code in its order 32 deals with suits by minors. In all cases involving a minor, he or she must have a next friend to give assistance. The court will appoint a guardian or next friend for the minor if a causes comes before it.
The guardian or next friend shall be of sound mind, mature and his interests shall not conflict with the minor’s.
The guardians or next friend cannot enter into a compromise with the opposite party without the court’s consent. He shall not receive cash or property for affecting a compromise. He can be removed for improper conduct.
THE Evidence Act say’s a person is competent to testify if the court considered he can give rational answers to question.
Tender age by itself is not a disqualification. The court will examine the witness’s age, consistency in replaying, and likelihood of bias before taking a decision. The rules regarding oath do not apply to witnesses under 12 years.
According to the Indian Act, 1872, an agreement entered into by a minor null and void. He cannot ratify a contract after attaining the age of majority as the contract is invalid from the beginning.
The age of majority, according to the Indian Majority Act 1875, us 18 years. In the cause of a person under the court of wards of a guardian, the age is 21 years.
A minor is favoured by law is several instances. A mortgage executed in favour of, Ninor is valid. He can be a promise but not a promissory.
An agreement for sale of property in favour of a minor is valid after payment. If a minor gets an advantage from an invalid contract, he can keep it. Ordinarily rules will not apply to him.
A guardian’s power to deal with a child’s property is limited. He must deal with the property with proper care and he cannot lease, mortgage or transfer it without the court’s permission.
A guardian in Muslim law cans sale a ninor’s property only under seven circumstances. Some instances are: if he obtains double its value, it is necessary for the child’s maintenance, the produce of the property is not enough to meet expenses of keeping it or the property is in danger of being destroyed.
The law laid down by the courts regarding minor’s contract is vast and complex. Still come areas are not covered either by the Acts or the court decisions.
On such instance which is left in doubt is the purchase of property by the guardian on behalf of the minor.
The child as a labourer and liabilities of parents and teachers regarding children and some other topics are covered under different chapters.