Lost in disorder

 Sunil Thapliyal |  2015-09-27 18:34:00.0  |  New Delhi

Lost in disorder

Anger, anxiety, drug, use of power and violence to fulfil freaky wishes are some symptoms of mental disorder which <g data-gr-id="327">instigates</g> a juvenile to commit <g data-gr-id="328">crime</g>. <g data-gr-id="326">Majority</g> of these children suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is a mental disorder that makes a victim think repeatedly and have certain thoughts over and over again or feel the need to perform certain routines repeatedly. 

As numbers of heinous crimes in which juveniles were involved have proved that they were unable to control either their thoughts or activities because they suffered from this disorder. These activities occur to such huge degree that the person’s daily life is negatively affected.

According to the NCRB statistics in 2014, 1,989 criminal cases – including snatching, robbery, 
dacoity, attempt to murder, murder and rape – were committed by juveniles between 1 January to 31 December. <g data-gr-id="333">Murder</g> was the most common crime with 841 cases reported across the city while an attempt to murder was the second most common (728) followed by rape (126). 

As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the percentage of juvenile crimes as a proportion of total crimes has increased from one per cent to 1.2 per cent from 2003 to 2013. During the same period, 16- 18-year-olds accused of crimes as a percentage of all juveniles accused of crimes increased from 54 per cent to 66 per cent.

Many juveniles are involved in some unlawful behaviour during their adolescent years but escape detection, apprehension or court involvement. Only those who have been officially 
adjudicated as such by a juvenile court are normally designated as “juvenile delinquents”.

Psychologists attribute this trend to various reasons including family problems and lack of parental guidance. 

“Majority of the juvenile offenders suffer from individual psychological problems and others are raised in problematic or dysfunctional families. A juvenile offender may need psychological treatment, educational assistance, or treatment for a substance abuse problem,” said prominent psychologist Dr Aruna Broota.

Research has shown that during adolescence there is a specific stage of development where <g data-gr-id="331">brain</g> is not fully developed and matured; therefore, the adolescents are more prone to reckless behaviour. A lot of children who ended up offending were also the children in need of care and protection requiring extra attention. Experts feel that children who have been abused may face social stigma and mental trauma. It affects their personalities. They see crime as a tool to overpower others to achieve their goal.

“Children often get affected by their surroundings. Even in their families they may have seen that how their parents used crime as a tool. <g data-gr-id="322">Specially</g>, such cases can be seen in the lower income group of people who reside in slum areas. While in upper or middle class, children often see how their families/neighbours or relatives often use <g data-gr-id="321">money</g> to overpower others,” said Broota.

Juveniles, who <g data-gr-id="323">suffer with</g> OCD or other disorders, do not have a sense of responsibility. They do not think of the outcome of their activities. They just want to <g data-gr-id="265">run-away</g> from their responsibilities. “Most rape cases turn out to be either love or elopement cases where minor girls subsequently charge their lovers with rape to avenge <g data-gr-id="324"><g data-gr-id="266">theirbrokenrelationship</g>.</g>” she added.

She further said: “There are no services for children in terms of counselling, case study, treatment and medication which indicate the failure of juvenile justice system. There are several factors for the rise in crime by juveniles. There is a need for parents to take account of their children.”

Currently, if the accused are found to be under 18 years of age, they are tried by the Juvenile Justice Board and, if convicted, is sent to a juvenile home for three years. An adult convicted of rape faces life term and death sentence in the case of repeat offence. These juveniles, who are involved in <g data-gr-id="340">crime</g>, often become a part of an organised crime or a gang and get involved in <g data-gr-id="341">crime</g>. “It is very surprising that several groups of criminals used juveniles to commit crimes like robbery and snatching. They know that a minor cannot be given strict punishment if he is caught he will be released soon. Some minors who have a ‘hardened criminal nature’ and repeatedly indulge in heinous crimes are difficult to reform,” said an official of ‘Observation Home for Boy’ Delhi gate.

“Fear of law among such juvenile offenders; only the first-timers or those below the age of 16 have been noticed to be less violent in behaviour,” he added. Meanwhile, the central government in a bid to control the juveniles’ crime passed a bill in the Lok Sabha on August 2014. The Bill permits juveniles between the age of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences. Also, any 16 to 18-year-old, who commits a lesser, i.e., serious offence may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years.

“There is <g data-gr-id="309">lot</g> that needs to be done in our country. Only a proper rehabilitation service will reduce the possibility of recidivism. The juvenile justice system is meant to provide the necessary psychological treatment, or mandate other agencies or individuals (including the juvenile and his/her parents) to provide assistance to the juvenile,” said Observation Home official.

“The recent incident, in which a minor girl slit his brother to death when he opposed her alleged affairs, shows that how the juvenile and teenagers are suffering from the psyche of the crime. The juveniles seem to consider <g data-gr-id="317">use</g> of force or violence to fulfil their desire without considering <g data-gr-id="318">its</g> out coming,” said Broota.

However, experts say that schools need to take <g data-gr-id="314">initiative</g> to keep children on the right track. Most of these child criminals are between 14 and 17 years. Meanwhile, officials in charge of juvenile homes, blame the judicial system, which offers bail even before the child reaches the home. “The child needs time to rehabilitate,” Observation Home official.

Police officials say that they are only trained to prevent crimes. “Most often, the problem begins at home and extends to school,” said a senior police official. Another police official said that they notify the parents when children are involved in petty crimes. Parents should be more responsible of their children, he added.

The observation home has not been very effective in reforming delinquent children. Some of them have become serious criminals after spending time at the observation home. “The condition of these children in these shelter homes are poor. They should get bail so that they can resume a normal life outside,” said Broota.

But officials at the observation home said once these children reach home, their parents neither contact the counsellor nor do they take measures to reform them. “Many of them were disowned by their parents after they were brought here. Few of them were lucky of got the family support,” said the official.

A juvenile offender may need psychological treatment, educational assistance, or treatment for a substance abuse problem. Provision of these needed rehabilitation services will reduce the possibility of recidivism. The juvenile justice system will often provide the necessary psychological treatment, or mandate other agencies or individuals (including the juvenile and his/her parents) to provide assistance to the juvenile.

Salil Bali vs Union of India (2013), where the Supreme Court has very aptly observed: “There are, of course, exceptions where a child in the age-group of 16 to 18 may have developed criminal propensities, which would make it virtually impossible for him/her to be reintegrated into mainstream society, but such examples are not of such proportions as to warrant any charge in thinking, since it is probably better to try and re-integrate children with criminal propensities into mainstream society, 29 rather than to allow them to develop into hardened criminals, which does not augur well for the future.”

The society is not very receptive to the issues related to child care and protection, as childhood is not considered as a separate phase in the life of a human being and care and protection is based on dominant ideas in different socio-cultural contexts in the country. As a result, children are treated as private property of their parents. Sometimes child care and protection are ignored in the name of “socialisation”. It is the considered opinion of the stakeholders that concentrated efforts were required to be taken by the Government including local self-government, non-government organisations, religious bodies/institutions, educational institutions and other civil society movements to sensitise society on issues related to child care and protection. 

To achieve this end, the scope of the definition of child care and protection may also be widened. A right based approach reaffirming UNCRC and Constitutional provisions should be followed in the process of defining childhood. Contribution of experts in the area of child rights and childhood are vital for widening the definition. 

Striking facts

Many juvenile offenders exhibit individual psychological problems while others have been raised in problematic or dysfunctional families. Psychological evaluation of juvenile offenders is an essential part of the family court system.

Certain types of offences (such as graffiti, vandalism, shoplifting and fare evasion) are committed disproportionately by young people while serious offences (such as homicide and sexual offences) are rarely perpetrated by juveniles. 

In addition, offences such as white collar crimes are committed infrequently by juveniles, as they are incompatible with juveniles’ developmental characteristics and life circumstances.

Juveniles, who are involved in some unlawful behaviour during their adolescent years escape detection, apprehension or court involvement. Only those who have been officially adjudicated by a juvenile court are designated as “juvenile delinquents”. 

The observation home has not been very effective in reforming delinquent children. Some of them have <g data-gr-id="264">deterioatedand</g> become serious criminals after spending time at the observation home.

Sunil Thapliyal

Sunil Thapliyal

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