You are on page 1of 17



Integrated Programme in

Ethics and Society

Prof. Biswanath Swain

Juvenile Delinquency in India

Group - 1
S. Karthikeyan (2015IPM090)
Shubham Sharma (2015IPM106)
C.S. Ananthapadmanabhan (2015IPM024)
Himanshu Rathod (2015IPM038)
K. Gaurav Pai (2015IPM094)
Sanchit America (2015IPM094)


To study the cases of juvenile delinquency from various lens of ethical perspectives and to
conclude by providing the validity of these perspective when dealing with juvenile
delinquency. We will give examples of cases of Juvenile Delinquency which either conforms
or does not conform to the perspectives. Each of the cases of juvenile delinquency will be
analysed under all the eleven perspectives and conclusions will be drawn according to this. We
found that some of the ethical perspectives validates juvenile delinquency whereas some do
not hence there is a huge variation in the way juvenile crimes are seen by different people,
under different circumstance due to this variation in perspectives. The values that we see in
these set of cases are those related to ethicality of dealing with children when a crime is
committed by them.


Juvenile, Delinquency, Ethics, Juvenile Justice Board, Egoism, Perspective, Altruism,



We would like to take this opportunity to express our profound gratitude and deep regard to
Prof. Biswanath Swain for his exemplary guidance, valuable feedback and constant
encouragement throughout the duration of the project. His valuable suggestions were of
immense help throughout our project work. His perceptive criticism kept us working to make
this project in a much better way. Working under him was an extremely knowledgeable
experience for us. We would also like to thank the library staff who helped us to get to the
immensely wide variety of articles, cases and papers without which the project could not have
been possible. We extend our hearty gratitude to the academic associate Mr.Mohit for his
support and suggestions towards developing this project.


Children are said to be gifts from God and are the greatest assets, national and personal.. We
have a duty that children have the chance to be raised in a healthy socio-cultural environment
so that they become morally healthy responsible citizens. The State is obligated to provide
equal development opportunities to all children during their growth to ensure social justice and
reduce inequality. Children are expected to grow up to be obedient and virtuous. However, due
to several reasons some children do not follow settled social and legal mores. Such children
most often get involved in criminal behavior called juvenile delinquency or juvenile crime.
Crime by juveniles is a harsh reality in India. Recently juveniles have been involved in heinous
crimes like murder and gang rape. It is a troubling trend and society is sorrowful by such
criminal acts by children. Experts believe that the current law is incapable to deal with the
situation and changes are required so that juveniles may be tried and punished as adults for
such heinous crimes. But there is also opposition to this view.

Juvenile means a person who is very young, teenager, adolescent or underage. In other words,
juvenile means children who have not yet reached the age of adults in the sense that they are
still childish or immature.

Legally speaking, a juvenile can be defined as a child who has not attained a certain age at
which he can be held liable for his criminal acts like an adult person under the law of the
country. Juvenile is a child who has committed certain acts which are in violation of any law
and are declared to be an offence.
In terms of law, a juvenile is a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years. As per
the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000, a juvenile shall not be treated as an adult
even if he/she is involved in any criminal acts for the purpose of trial and punishment in the
court of law.

Petty crimes as well as heinous crimes are regularly being committed in India by children.
Among juveniles there is a trend that juveniles between the ages of 16 to 18 are more involved

in heinous criminal acts. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the data of 2013
shows that of the 43,506 crimes registered against minors under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
and the Special Local Law (SLL) by juveniles, 28,830 had been committed by those between
the ages of 16 to 18. The statistics also show the number of juveniles found to be in conflict
with law under the IPC and the SLL has risen 13.6% and 2.5% respectively in 2013, as
compared with 2012.

The recent inhuman gang rape of a Nirbhaya on December 16, 2013, shocked the nation’s
collective conscience. Most shocking was the brutality with which the heinous crime was
committed; it was found out that among the five accused, one was a minor who was the most
barbaric one.

Again, a minor was involved in another brutal case known as Shakti Mill Rape case. These
recent events have triggered a debate that the present Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection)
Act, 2000 which treats persons below the age of 18 years as minors, should be amended.


No one is born a criminal. They are made so by ccircumstances. One’s life and overall
personality is shaped largely by their socio-cultural environment, both inside and outside of
home. Some of the most common causes attributed to juvenile delinquency include poverty,
drug abuse, anti-social peer group, abusive parents, nuclear families, domestic violence, sexual
abuse and media.
However, in India, poverty and media make juveniles inclined towards criminal activity.
Poverty is a major cause which forces a child to get involved in delinquency. Also, social media
today has a more negative than positive impact on young minds.



In India, the first law dealing with children committing crime was the Apprentices Act, 1850.
It stated that children under the age of 15 years committing petty offences will be bounded as
Thereafter, the Reformatory Schools Act, 1897 came into effect which provided that children
up to 15 years will be sentenced to imprisonment. After Independence, aiming to provide
protection and development and rehabilitation of delinquent juveniles, the Parliament enacted
the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, which brought uniformity through out the country.
Section 2(a) of the Act defined the term ‘juvenile’ as a “boy who has not attained the age of 16
years and a girl who has not attained the age of 18 years”.
Later, the Parliament enacted the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 which raised
the age bar to 18 years for both girls and boys.

Analysis of the Issue


Absolutist Perspective deals with making ethical decisions based on universal standards it is
even fixed spatiotemporally. According to absolutist crime is a crime no matter who commits
it, age and gender cannot not be a factor for the decision of justice. This is so because
according to this perspective everyone is supposed to follow uniform rules hence if
punishment for murder is life imprisonment then even juveniles should be tried the same
way. Another argument is that since every other person has equal rights to live hence we are
not in command to breach this rule.

Refer the case1: A juvenile was caught from Madangiri Delhi, he was just about to turn 18 he
killed two people with intention to settle rivalry with them, he claimed that he wanted to be
tried as a juvenile. He was involved in water mafia of the area.

Under absolutist perspective he won’t be tried as a juvenile rather he will be awarded death
sentence or life imprisonment.

Relativist Perspectives deals with making ethical decisions based on the context. It believes
that ethicality changes with context. Under this perspective a juvenile should be tried
according to the kind of crime he/she did under certain circumstances. If a crime is
committed due to defense then he should not be given heavy punishment whereas if done
purposefully then he or she should be given punishment.

16 year old boy from Gudur district was sent to juvenile justice board for killing his father,
the boy claimed that this was an act of self-defense against his father’s domestic abuse.

Under relativist perspective this crime will be considered softly and the kid will be awarded
only minute punishment.



Objectivist Perspective deals with making ethical decisions without the influence of ones
own personal feelings/gain of the doer. It means that the decision made is not influenced by
any specific place, human being, perspective. According to Objectivist perspective any
decisions taken will involve emotions hence any decision taken may or may not be correct
but will satisfy the emotions of judge.

In the Nirbhaya case public wanted the juvenile to be tried as an adult and most of the request
were based on public emotion if under such circumstances the judge would have taken
decision then it would be seen under objectivist perspective.

Subjectivist Perspective states that any decisions taken by and individual or any crime done
is based on his/her liking it means that the ethical decisions made is partially governed by a
person’s feeling without any consideration for others.
As in a Juvenile’s case stealing food for survival can be heavily punished if the judge doesn't
like it or in cases of murder he may be let go if the judge finds the victim unpleasant.

A 17 year old boy from South Delhi was caught for killing a boy from locality, he confessed
that he done so because he wanted that kid’s bike. Such cases show how a person is lured into
committing crime due to his/her greed.


Under this perspective it can be argued that Juvenile delinquency is just an act to carry out
ones self-interest and hence is ethically correct. Egoistic perspective gives one the agency to
commit crime by claiming that, the crime committed gave the person some form of gain. But
the issue here is that most of the crimes done take away another person’s right to live (self-

centered for them) hence this is denial of their rights and hence is not justified. This shows
that egoism cannot be used in the case of issues like juvenile delinquency.

A 17 year old boy was killed by his friend’s one juvenile and one 19 year old boy for his
money and bike the juvenile has been sent to juvenile justice board whereas the 19 year old
was charged with murder.

Referred case2 shows that the criminal has followed a self-centric approach but this is a
contradiction to the silver rule hence cannot be morally correct.


Moral duty of people to carry out activities that will lead to good of other, doesn't matter if
the person gains anything or not. In view of juvenile delinquency this perspective is
contradictory since most of the crimes including those done by juveniles usually are due to

A 17 year old kid driving Benz hit and killed 32-year-old Siddharth Sharma. The kid only
spent seven hours in jail and then was released on bail.

Referred case3 shows that there was no altruism involved rather for the child’s personal
pleasure he killed someone.


This perspective says that all individual needs to pursue both their as well as their society’s
interests the issue here is that though juveniles commit crime for their own needs they do not


validate society’s interest hence Juvenile Delinquency is not completely satisfied under

In another case4 of juvenile crime, two boys shot and killed an Uber driver in Delhi. The boys
were 16 and 17 year old, one of the boy shot the driver and later the boys hid his body this
crime was committed due to a fight that broke out between them.

This case doesn't show any qualities of universalism rather it was a hate crime and further the
boys tried to get away with it.


Gross utilitarianism is an ethical perspective which is stationed on the cause or ideology of

“Greatest happiness of the greatest number”. Juvenile delinquency, in its primary definition
contradicts the concept of Gross utilitarianism. Juvenile delinquency is defined as an act where
crimes are committed by a ‘young person’, the definition in its self contradicts the ethical
perspective of gross utilitarianism, as there is no greatest happiness of the greatest number
present, as the happiness here is satisfied only for the offender. On the other hand, the affected
person at the receiving end of the offence experiences pain, but according to this theory we
also prevent pain. Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher is a strong believer of this ethical
perspective. Also, the happiness received through an act should have ‘Purity’, ‘Intensity’,
‘Duration’ etc. In the case of Juvenile delinquency, none of the above circumstances are
satisfied. There is no purity as the happiness derived here is from a crime or due to production
of hurt or discomfort to others. Our society is the main association which is not happy here
because of the crimes as they don’t feel safe and it finally leads to commotion among the people
in the society and the harmony is disrupted in the society. As it leads to spread of commotion,
the little happiness that the offender felt does not have fecundity.


REFERRED EXAMPLE5: In the Nirbhaya case (A Juvenile was also involved) that happened
in Delhi in 2012, the injustice caused lead to an outburst of anger nearly in the whole country,
therefore Gross Utilitarianism is not satisfied.


Refined Utilitarianism is an ethical perspective, which measures happiness on a different

footing when compared to gross utilitarianism. This Perspective measures different happiness
based on the ‘quality’ of happiness and not on the quantity or number. John Stuart Mill, an
English philosopher embraced this theory of Refined Utilitarianism. Juvenile delinquency, can
actually be justified as a right act when this theory is applied, as the happiness caused for the
juvenile may be more when compared to the happiness some other act. The court also should
not make its decisions on such cases based on this theory of refined utilitarianism as the
decisions made will not be rational and may end up dispensing an unjust judgement.

REFERRED EXAMPLE6: During February 2012, in Chennai, a fifteen-year-old boy stabbed

his Hindi teacher in school to death because she wrote bad remarks about him in the school
diary. The boy later confessed to the police that he was inspired to perform this act after seeing
the Hindi movie ‘Agneepath’, where the protagonist stabs the villain as an act of revenge. He
also confessed that if he felt that if his teacher was killed no one would interfere in his studies
and therefore he would be happy. Here this issue is justified if it is seen on the basis of the
refined utilitarianism perspective, but killing is involved here and hence this contradicts or
doesn’t follow the silver rule. Therefore, though this act satisfies refined utilitarianism, it is
unethical in nature.


10 | P a g e

Negative utilitarianism is a concept which disseminates or influences us to maximize pleasure

and minimize pain. This theory was brought to life by Karl Popper, an Australian Philosopher.
The ethical treatment of Juvenile Delinquency in this perspective is similar to the previous
perspective of refined utilitarianism. Here we should maximize pleasure and minimize pain.
The juvenile might justify his actions and wrong doings on this clause, but this contradicts the
fact that Ethics is not limited to a single person, space etc.

EXAMPLE: In 2016, in India 1017 cases of petty cases of theft was registered on juveniles.
Most of the offenders were of the age under 15, they justified stealing by saying that they were
forced to steal due to feeling of hunger. The act of stealing in this case is justified according to
the theory of Negative Utilitarianism, but on the whole stealing is ethically right.


This theory of deontology was championed by Immanuel Kant, a German Philosopher.

According to this ethical perspective, while performing an action we should not only see
whether the result or the consequence of the action is ethical or not. We also should see
whether the method of performing the action is ethical and the rules are followed while
performing the action.

EXAMPLE: Sunil, a 14-year-old was caught stealing in Jhansi. The court announced him
innocent because he was caught stealing medicines for his ailing grandmother. Here the court
has made a wrong judgement, as the intention of the action was good, but the method of
performing the action is unethical. Such loose judgements may make the juvenile more
confident to perform the crime again.

11 | P a g e
Virtue Ethics

Before committing a crime, an individual’s character is not just. To that individual, in that
impulsive moment, it might seem just but in the eyes of law, any crime committed is unjust.

Even in case of juveniles, where in most of the cases they are not fully aware of the
consequences but still there is some degree of unjustness or impurity in their characters.

And as postulates of virtue ethics tell us that, “If the concerned individual’s character is
virtuous, he/she could deliberate an action which is ethically right and its consequence will
be ethically beneficial”. In the same way, an action which is ethically wrong leads to
consequences which are ethically disadvantageous.

Analysing It through the Eyes of Plato

 PRUDENCE- (negative) as the action is unjust or unwise.

 JUSTICE-(negative) character possess sense of injustice.
 TEMPERANCE- (negative) no sense of self-control is there before committing a
 FORTITUDE- (negative) before committing a crime, an individual succumbs to
mental pressure.

Analysing It through the Eyes of Aristotle

According to Aristotle’s GOLDEN MEAN theory, where an individual’s character should not
possess extreme of any character or vice but the mean of the two vice.

The character of an individual who commits crime is full of vices and his/her character does
not fall at any average level.

12 | P a g e

By comparing all these perspectives, we can conclude that Juveniles should be dealt in a just
way. Juvenile cases of crime are very sensitive and the outcome of the case will affect the
future of the juvenile. Therefore, the best judgement that avoids confusion and gives us an
opinion that justice has been given, is by sticking to the basics i.e. to the laws of ethics. We
all know that ethics is a spatial, a temporal and indifferent of person, human etc. Therefore,
the judges should follow the laws of ethics to give a sound judgment, and the juveniles also
should be taught by their parents or in the school to take a rational judgement, and should
ensure that their free will is employed while making a decision or before doing an action.
Following different ethical perspectives will lead to different consequences of a same action,
this is the time when we need to use the Faculty of reason and research the ethicality involved
in our action and its consequence. Juvenile crimes are a major social issue in our country.
With such a huge human resource and youth population, we need to prevent juvenile crimes
and ensure that our youth are lead in the right path and that crimes are not committed by them
when they are young or in the future. The years spent by a person when he is a juvenile are
the learning years and are very important in his life. His life will be affected adversely if he
spends this part of his life by committing crimes, and he will have a bleak future and will end
up being a liability for the nation. This is the time where, the concept of Ethics comes into
play and saves the day, when a person uses ethics in his decision making, he tends to perform
the right action and this will eventually lead to him making the right choices in life, which
will lead to the betterment of the human society on the whole.

13 | P a g e




 Anonymous. "Juvenile justice." Columbia Journalism Review

37(5A)(1999): 2.

 Kant, Immanuel. "Good will, duty, and the categorical imperative."

Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life: Introductory Readings in Ethics.
Ed. Sommers, Christina. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1985, 86-96.

 Mill, John Stuart. "Utilitarianism." Vice and Virtue in Everyday

Life: Introductory Readings in Ethics. Ed. Sommers, Christina. New
York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985, 79-85.

 Ripley, Amanda. "Throwing the book at kids." Time, 19 March

2001: 34.

14 | P a g e
, History of
Juvenile Justice System Page 2-3.

, Juvenile courts

flourished for the first half of the 20th century Page 3-4.

, Public
Confidence, Page 4.

, Juvenile Crime Part I, Page 2.

15 | P a g e

Exhibit 1

16 | P a g e
Exhibit 2

17 | P a g e