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JUVENILE JUSTICE: BALANCING ACCOUNTABILITY AND REHABILITATION UNDER THE IPC

INTRODUCTION

“Juvenile justice refers to a branch of law that focuses on processing and treatment of nonadult offenders for violations of law and providing legal remedies which protect their interests in situations of conflict or neglect”[1]. Juvenile Justice aims to strike a delicate balance between accountability and rehabilitation for the non-adults who have committed crimes. In India, this balance has been taken care through the framework provided by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 which outlines the rights, treatment and rehabilitation of Juvenile offenders. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights as well as the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights are mandated to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the JJ Act, 2015 in such manner, as may be prescribed (Section 109).[2]

The purpose of the blog is to dig into the complex dynamics of balancing accountability and rehabilitation under the Indian Penal Code by exploring the subtle differences in accountability and rehabilitation. This blog aims to shed light on the Importance of rehabilitation and accountability and how they can be harmonized to achieve an effectual Juvenile Justice system under the IPC.

OVERVIEW OF THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN INDIA

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2015 basically governs the juvenile justice system in India. This Act recognizes children who require care, protection and rehabilitation and aims to provide them with a thorough structure for the treatment of juvenile offenders. In this Act, a ‘juvenile’ is defined as an individual who is below 18 years.[3] It establishes special Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) at the district level, consisting of a metropolitan magistrate of the first class and two social workers, with at least one of them being a woman.[4] This marked a clear departure from treating a child as ‘doli incapax’: someone who is incapable of realizing the consequences of his or her actions.[5] These JJBs are responsible for handling cases related to Juveniles.

This act also distinguishes between the heinous offences as well as the other offences committed by the juveniles. In the case of heinous offences also known as serious offences, the Act allows for the transfer of juveniles to a children’s court where they are treated as adults[6]. Section 15 of juvenile justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 focuses on dealing with serious offences in such a way that both age as well as the circumstances of the juvenile offenders. Overall the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 issues a comprehensive structure to the juvenile justice system. Its priority includes supervision, shelter and rehab for young offenders while considering the principles of public safety and accountability. The Act aims to strike a balance between these objectives to ensure fair and effective juvenile justice systems in India.[7]

IMPORTANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY IN JUVENILE JUSTICE

In the field of juvenile justice, accountability plays a very significant role as it makes sure that offenders are held responsible for their actions and the consequence that results from their in-question behaviour. There are various reasons why accountability plays a significant role as accountability reinforces the principle of the rule of law by making sure that no individual regardless of age will be exempt from the consequences of their action. It promotes the idea that everyone is subject to the same legal standards and obligations. Holding juvenile offenders accountable for their behaviour serves as a deterrent to prevent future criminal activity. Accountability provides an avenue for the victims to seek justice, find closure and heal from the harm caused by the offence. It notices their rights and the impact of the crime allowing victims to feel heard, supported, and empowered.

Accountability plays a notable role in juvenile justice systems. So it should be balanced with appropriate rehabilitation measures to address the underlying causes of delinquency and support positive change. Striking the right balance between accountability and rehabilitation is essential to ensure the holistic development and successful reintegration of juvenile offenders into society. A key message under this heading is that accountability practices in juvenile justice should be designed specifically for juvenile justice rather than being carried over from the criminal courts and should be designed to promote healthy social learning, moral development, and legal socialization during adolescence.[8]

REHABILITATION IN JUVENILE JUSTICE

Rehabilitation holds supreme importance in addressing the needs of the offenders. It notices that juveniles have the potential for change and growth and seeks to provide them with the necessary support, guidance, and resources to redirect their lives toward positive pathways. India has taken a very wise stance in separating the treatment of adult offenders and juveniles.[9] Rehabilitation programs under the juvenile justice system mainly focus on education and skill development. By providing access to quality education, vocational training, and employment opportunities, young offenders are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue meaningful careers and become self-sufficient which allows them to break the cycle of crime and build a better future for themselves.[10]

By addressing the root causes rehabilitation programs equip offenders with the necessary tools and support systems to make positive changes in their lives. This in turn helps reduce the recidivism rates, enhance community safety, and promote the successful reintegration of young offenders into society. By prioritizing rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system, society invests in the positive development and well-being of young offenders.

BALANCING ACCOUNTABILITY AND REHABILITATION

Balancing accountability and rehabilitation are the critical issues being faced in the field of juvenile justice. While accountability emphasizes holding young offenders responsible for their actions, rehabilitation emphasizes addressing the underlying causes of delinquency and supporting their positive transformation. Balancing accountability and rehabilitation requires an individualized approach that considers the unique circumstances and needs of each young offender. An effective reintegration into the general public includes numerous individual, familial, and social factors. Identifying what these factors are and taking measures to resolve them are crucial steps in reducing the recidivism rates in the country.[11] Tailoring interventions to meet individual needs helps ensure a balanced and effective approach. Rehabilitation admits that many offenders have root issues that contribute to their delinquency such as substance abuse, lack of educational opportunities, or trauma. It focuses on addressing these causes and providing necessary support.

The ultimate goal of balancing accountability and rehabilitation is to prevent recidivism. While accountability alone may deter future offending but is often insufficient to address the root cause that led to the delinquency. Balancing accountability and rehabilitation often requires cautious consideration of timing and proportionality. For less heinous offences or first-time offenders’ stronger attention should be paid to rehabilitation. However, for heinous offences accountability measures may be necessary to ensure public safety and hold the offender responsible. Balancing accountability and rehabilitation is essential to promote justice, individual growth, and community well-being.

CONCLUSION

Both accountability and rehabilitation is essential as accountability holds young offenders responsible for their actions while rehabilitation focuses on addressing the underlying issues which caused delinquency in the first place and encouraging positive transformation. Both aspects are important to promote justice, prevent recidivism, and foster the successful reintegration of young offenders into society. Accountability upholds the principles of fairness, justice, and responsibility. It deters individuals from committing a crime in the future and sends a comprehensible message as delinquent behaviour will not be condoned. While rehabilitation recognizes the potential for change and growth in young offenders. It gives attention to deep-rooted issues being faced by offenders which include trauma, substance abuse, or education gaps. Addressing these root issues might help the offenders in positive reintegration into society.

In conclusion, by striking a balance between accountability and rehabilitation, the juvenile justice system can fulfil the objectives of promoting justice and the successful reintegration of individuals back into society. A comprehensive and individualized approach that addresses the needs of young offenders while holding them accountable for their actions can contribute to safer communities, the rehabilitation of juveniles, and the promotion of a fair and equitable justice system.

[1] Gary Jensen and Donald J. Shoemaker, ‘Juvenile Justice’ (Encyclopedia Britannica, 18 May 2023) <https://www.britannica.com/topic/juvenile-justice> accessed 5 June 2023

[2] Shantilal Taviyad, ‘Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015’ (Vikaspedia, 26 May 2016) <https://vikaspedia.in/education/child-rights/juvenile-justice-care-and-protection-of-children-act-2015> accessed 5 June 2023

[3] Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2015, s 2(35)

[4] Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2015, s 4

[5] ‘The Juvenile Justice System in India: A Brief Overview’ (Social & Political Research Foundation, 22 May 2020) <https://sprf.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/22.5.2020_The-Juvenile-Justice-System-in-India_A-Brief-Overview.pdf > accessed 5 June 2023

[6] Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2015, s 15

[7] Kavisha Gupta, ‘All About Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (Care and Protection of Children)’ (Latest Laws in India, 14 May 2018) <https://www.latestlaws.com/articles/all-about-juvenile-justice-act-2015-care-and-protection-of-children-by-kavisha-gupta> accessed 5 June 2023

[8] National Research Council, ‘Accountability and Fairness’ in Richard J. Bonnie, Robert L. Johnson, Betty M. Chemers and Julie A. Schuck (eds), Reforming Juvenile Justice A Developmental Approach (The National Academies Press 2013)

[9]Aisvarya Chandran, ‘Rehabilitation in the Juvenile Justice System’ (Symbiosis Law School Hyderabad, 7 July 2022) <https://blog.slsh.edu.in/2022/07/07/rehabilitation-in-the-juvenile-justice-system/> accessed 6 June 2023

[10] L Steinberg  et al., ‘REENTRY OF YOUNG OFFENDERS FROM THE JUSTICE SYSTEM: A Developmental Perspective’ (2004 ) 2(1) Youth Violence Juvenile Justice <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2813457/> accessed 6 June 2023

[11] Jeff Hines,‘ The Lived Experiences of Avoiding Recidivism Among African American Male (First-Time) Former Offenders’ (DPhil thesis, Walden University 2021)