In an alarming trend, juveniles are increasingly getting involved in crimes including heinous offences like rape and murder, according to government data.
The National Crime Records Bureau's data for 2012 is especially significant as the Women and Child Development Ministry has proposed changes in law to treat juveniles involved in heinous crimes on par with adult offenders, which has met with opposition from certain quarters.
According to the NCRB data, 485 juveniles were involved in rape cases in 2002 and the figure swelled to 1,175 in 2012.
A total of 531 juveniles were arrested on charges of murder in 2002 that jumped to 990 in 2012, an increase of 86.4%. Apart from that 63 juveniles were involved in dacoity, 207 in robbery, 1723 in burglary and 3361 in theft cases in 2002 which increased to 174, 767, 2,625 and 5,528 in 2012 respectively.
In cases of kidnapping and abduction, 164 juveniles were booked in 2002 which mounted to 789 recording 381.1% increase. In cases of assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, 476 juveniles were booked in 2002 which increased to 613 recording 17.4% rise.
An upward trend was witnessed in many other crimes like attempt to murder, rioting, cheating and others as per the NCRB data.
"The figures are shocking as they indicate that more and more juveniles are getting involved in heinous crimes. At times, it is the socio-economic background or even the mental condition of the child that is responsible for such trends.
"But mostly it is due to the bad company and environment in which they dwell that leads them to get involved in such criminal activities. At times even hardened criminals or some gangs use these juveniles to commit such crimes," WCD Krishna minister Tirath said recently.
Keeping the trend in mind, the WCD ministry has finalised a proposal seeking an amendment in the Juvenile Justice Act which has been sent to the Law and Home Ministries.
According to the proposal, juveniles above 16 years involved in heinous crimes like murder, rape, acid attack or gangrape would be tried as adults under the IPC, if the Juvenile Justice Board recommends so.
Even when treated under the Indian Penal Code, according to a provision in the amendment, they will not be awarded capital punishment and life imprisonment as India is a signatory of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Tirath said.
The amendment also seeks that repeated offenders involved in crimes like robbery, cheating, rioting and kidnapping can also face punishment under the IPC if the Juvenile Justice Board recommends so after examining all aspects and parameters of the juveniles and the crime.