juvenile foot.docx - The Revolving Door of Juvenile Justice...

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The Revolving Door of Juvenile Justice in India Updated: Jul 8 - Vrishank Singhania* Introduction Cries of ‘justice’ echoed through the nation on March 20, 2020 after four of the Nirbhaya convicts were executed. Yet there were some who were not satisfied as one of the accused persons, who was a juvenile at the time of committing the crime, had gotten away. This reflects the sentiment of the majority in 2012, which wanted the juvenile to be tried as an adult. Subramaniam Swamy even filed a petition that the juvenile should be tried as an adult. This was rejected by the Juvenile Justice Board (‘JJB’),[1] which sentenced the accused juvenile to three years in a reform facility, as per the existing laws in force at that time.[2] This caused widespread public anger and there were demands for reform of existing juvenile laws. It was because of this popular sentiment and public backlash that the Government decided to enact The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (‘the Act’).[3] The Act introduced several changes to the existing legal framework on juveniles. This article specifically deals with those provisions that allow for children between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, who have committed ‘heinous offences’, to be tried as adults.[4] While there are multiple reasons to oppose such a system, this article focuses only on one of them – the potential for an increase in recidivism among those children who are tried as adults.
I. Labelling Theory and Stigmatization The labelling theory suggests that a person engages in deviant behaviour[5] not only because of their own individual behaviour but also because of societal response.[6] This means that when society labels an individual as deviant, they will eventually engage in that labelled deviant behaviour. The reason for this is that society not only labels the person but it also sanctions and stigmatises them. This reaction from society, including their peers, friends, and even family, effectively alienates them from society. They are perceived as a criminal and their previous behaviour is also redefined negatively to fit this perception.[7] This treatment changes the labelled person’s self-perception and they begin to engage in deviant behaviour that conforms to the label that society has thrust upon them. They increasingly seek solace in subcultures.[8] They interact with others who exhibit deviant behaviour, who accept this behaviour as ‘normal’. This further pushes them into crime and deviance. They shield themself from society, which is the only entity that can help them because it offers some normalcy. Thus, deviance becomes a lifestyle that is difficult to change.[9] In essence, labelling “leads the deviant individual to follow a self-fulfilling prophecy of abidance to the ascribed label”.[10] Under the Act, an individual between sixteen and eighteen years of age, who is accused of a heinous offence, is made to undergo extensive character and psychological evaluation. The JJB then decides whether they should be tried as an adult. When the JJB orders that a child be must tried as an adult,

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