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  • Anshu Sharma

Exploring the Effectiveness of Rehabilitation in the Juvenile Justice System

Anshu Sharma

Delhi Metropolitan Education

Juvenile Justice System and Rehabilitation


In India, the Juvenile Justice System plays a significant role in societal behavior towards young offenders. Previously Juveniles were often ignored and neglected, they were usually kept in prisons alongside hardened criminals and were subjected to punishments that were meant for adults. However, with due time and dynamic changes in society and its norms, there has been observed a paradigm shift where rehabilitation and care are provided to young offenders. To manage all this many laws, provisions, and guidelines are established like Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and many other platforms. With roots in Constitutional philosophy and according to international standards, the Juvenile Justice System aims to reform young offenders and re-integrate them into society whenever they are ready to move in, prioritizing their overall development and well-being. This article delves into the evolution and development of the Juvenile Justice System and how it deals with the rehabilitation of young offenders. 

Evolution and Development 

The juvenile justice system of India highlights an evolving understanding of the unique needs of young offenders. In 1920 juvenile court of Bombay was established under the Children Act of 1920. This court and act recognised the necessity for a separate framework to address juvenile crimes. Later in 1986, the Juvenile Justice Act replaced the Children Act, which emphasized juveniles' need for care and protection rather than punishment for the same. 

2000’s amendments aligned the act with the international standards, where the age of juvenile delinquency was raised to 18 and the main focus was on rehabilitation. Following the Nirbhaya case, the act allowed juveniles varying from age 16- 18 as adults for serious or heinous crimes while maintaining rehabilitation principles for other offenses. 

Further, the 2021 amendment strengthened the system by introducing provisions for foster care, adoption, and holistic rehabilitation, which emphasizes the role of the child welfare committee and juvenile justice board. All these changes reflect India's commitment to a fair and compassionate approach to juvenile justice.

Policies and frameworks for the Juvenile Justice system

In India, the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 serves as a comprehensive framework that aims at safeguarding the well-being and rights of juveniles who commit any unlawful activity. This act mainly prioritizes the principles of diversion, rehabilitation, and restorative justice. It established a specialized juvenile justice board that handles cases that involve minors. Also, it provides rehabilitation programs and support services to facilitate the reintegration of juvenile offenders into society.

Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquency is the behavior exhibited by individuals under 18 years of age which is considered against the law and societal norms. These behaviors are considered abnormal and anti-social for which the offenders are either punished or sent to rehabilitation for their development, care, and protection.

Causes for Juvenile Delinquency

Social factors

  1. Broken homes – A child needs love, care, and guidance from parents for healthy development. But when children lack parental guidance because of parent's death, divorce, serious health issues, parent’s absence due to work, or any other serious problem, they become more susceptible to negative influences. Example- A child growing up without parental guidance may seek validation and support from peers, potentially leading to delinquent behavior.

  2. Poverty - poverty creates an environment in which children lack access to basic needs and parental guidance increasing their influence to negative influences. Poor financial situations can force parents to work long hours leaving children unsupervised and vulnerable to influences from criminal elements. Example - In impoverished households, children to meet their basic needs or to emulate the lifestyle of peers get involved in criminal activities.

  3. Bad influence - peer pressure plays a significant role in influencing children's behavior. Peer pressure and involvement with delinquent individuals significantly impact a child's choices and behavior. Example - a teenager might engage in criminal activities to fit in with the delinquent peer group just to be accepted in it.

Personal factors

  1. Mental instability - few juveniles suffer mental deficiencies or illnesses that hamper their ability to differentiate between what's wrong and right. Their inability to discern the consequences of their actions can lead to involvement in criminal activities. For example - children who are mentally unstable can be manipulated by criminals very easily to commit acts which are unlawful.

  2. Emotional Problems - this is caused by feelings of inferiority, societal rejection, and jealousy which contribute to delinquent behavior among young juveniles. For example - a child who is facing emotional problems due to social injustice may indulge in criminal activities.

Legal Rights of Juvenile Offenders

  1. Right to a lawyer - Juveniles have the right to appoint a lawyer who will represent them during legal proceedings.

  2. Right to cross-examine witnesses - Juveniles have the right to question the witnesses, challenge the evidence presented, and defend themselves.

  3. Right to provide evidence to support one's case - Juveniles have right to present evidence in their defense supporting their arguments and argue upon the allegations made against them.

  4. Right to remain silent - Juveniles have the right to remain silent during questioning or proceedings which protects them from self compelled statements.

  5. Right to appeal - Juveniles, just like adults, have the right to appeal the Court's decision if it is believed that the decision made is unfair and violates their rights.

  6. Right to transcript of trial - Juveniles have the right to get a written record of their proceedings, which can help them review the evidence presented and the Court's reasoning upon the decision made in detail.

  7. Right, to have a speedy trial - Juveniles have the right to have a speedy trial which means case proceedings are being resolved promptly and without any undue delay.

Juvenile Justice System v/s Adult Justice System

Age Criteria

In most of the states of India, an individual indulged in criminal activities of about 10-18 years of age is considered a juvenile.

On the other hand, in the adult justice system, it generally encompasses individuals above 18 years of age.

Court Proceedings

In India, when adults commit a crime, they go through regular court proceedings where they have the right to a trial by jury. But juveniles who are accused of wrongdoings, they don't get a trial by jury, unlike adults. Rather, a judge decides their case.

For example- if a 14-year-old is caught stealing, he won't face a jury but a judge will decide on the case.

Differences in Aim

For most of the adults found guilty in India, the main aim is to punish them. They are imprisoned as a penalty for what they did wrong.

But in the juvenile justice system, the aim is different where it tries to help them change their behavior and get back on track. Therefore instead of punishing them, they get counseling, do community services, and go through educational programs which prevents them from indulging in any criminal activity.

Rehabilitation v/s Punishment 

Rehabilitation is a second chance given to young individuals who made mistakes and got involved in unlawful activities. The main aim of rehabilitation is to help these juveniles understand what they did wrong and how to make better choices in the future. For example, if a teenager does something wrong like stealing or fighting, rehabilitation might involve sessions where the counselor tries to figure out the need for stealing or fighting and how they can avoid doing the same in the future. Also, research shows that rehabilitation programs reduce the chances of young offenders re-offend.

Punishment is a penalty charged to individuals to make them face the consequences of their actions. It mainly focuses on making them pay for their wrongdoings instead of helping them to change. For example, if a teenager gets caught destroying a public park by spraying paint, so punishment might involve giving them community service where they have to clean the graffiti painted and do some other services as well. Therefore, its a way of making them understand that their actions have consequences.

In conclusion, it will be wise to say that punishment provides immediate consequences for the actions of individuals. On the other hand, rehabilitation is considered as a more sustainable option that addresses the root Causes of delinquency and helps the young individuals to build a positive future.

Role of Education and Counseling in Juvenile Rehabilitation 

A young individual who gets into trouble with the law faces various backlashes. They might have missed out on their school because of their situation. But education is the key that can open the door for a better future. This quality education program provides them with new things to learn and improve their skills. For instance, they might learn practical skills which could help them find a job later on. Therefore when they finish their time in a rehabilitation center, they will have a better chance of finding work and staying out of trouble. 

Also, these individuals might be dealing with lots of difficulties like experiencing emotional turmoil or things that might have hugely affected them. In these types of cases, counseling helps them to overcome the trauma. It is like having someone who listens and helps to find a solution collectively. For example, many young juveniles might have anger issues due to which they might not be able to handle their choices and make decisions. So with counseling, they can start feeling better about themselves and learn how to stay out of trouble in the future terms.

Challenges and Issues in the Juvenile Justice System

1.Overcrowding and understaffing

One of the challenges is overcrowded detention and lack of staff to manage them. There are a limited number of juvenile homes and observation centers, which makes the young offender stay at police stations or in adult jails which is not appropriate and suitable for a rehabilitation environment.

2.Delayed Justice

Delay in adjudication of juvenile cases and the backlog of cases in juvenile courts is another issue. The slow pace of justice undermines the effectiveness of rehabilitation efforts and it might lead to frustration with these individuals, their peers, and family.

3.Stigmatization and Social Reintegration

Young juvenile offenders often face stigma and discrimination in society. This hinders their successful reintegration into the community. These negative perceptions affect their employment opportunities, access to education, and social relationships.

4.Inadequate legal representatives

There are many juvenile offenders who lack access to legal representation, specifically those who come from socio-economically disadvantaged groups. Due to lack of effective legal advocacy, juveniles do not know their rights and might not get fair treatment during proceedings.

Successful Juvenile Rehabilitation Programs

There are several successful rehabilitation programs that focus on various aspects, few are mentioned below: -

1. Skill development programs

This empowers juveniles with practical skills and competencies that facilitates their reintegration in society. These programs focus on varied skills such as communication skills, life skills, problem solving skills, financial literacy, and more.

2. Counseling and psychological support

Trained counselors and psychologists work with juvenile offenders to address their emotional, psychological, and behavioral issues that contribute to their delinquent behavior. These interventions aim to reduce the risk by promoting emotional well-being and resilience among juvenile offenders.

3. Education programs

These programs focus on academic education as well as vocational training. Some rehabilitation centers also collaborate with local educational institutions to provide services of formal schooling and more.


In conclusion, we can say that a big shift is seen in the juvenile justice system of India where young offenders who broke the laws were treated like adults and were punished harshly. But in present times, they get special support programs to help them change and reintegrate into society. The Juvenile Justice Act 2015 plays an important part which focuses on helping kids instead of punishing them. To make sure that kids are getting the right help, various special boards, programs, and services are set up. Even though there are many challenges, there are good programs that teach these kids new skills, provide counseling, and give them quality education. All these programs benefit young offenders to stand a chance to turn their lives around and live in the society peacefully.




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