Juvenile crimes soar to over 5,700 cases in Maharashtra

TNN | Nov 26, 2014, 05.43 AM IST

PUNE: Peer pressure, boredom and a breakdown in communication with parents has made minor children drift towards crime, child rights' experts said on Tuesday.

Distressing as it may sound, juvenile crime in the state went up by 1,138 cases (24.9%) in 2013 when compared to the previous year's 4,570 cases. The Crime in Maharashtra-2013 CID report released on Tuesday said as many as 5,708 cases under the Indian Penal Code were registered against minor children.

Of these, 2,341 (41%) were property-related offences like dacoity, robbery, burglary and theft. There were 2,146 (37%) violent crimes like murder, rape, culpable homicide, riot and causing hurt, the report said, adding that 1,221 offences were registered under other crimes.

The report said that 5708 IPC cases were registered against juveniles in conflict with law in Maharashtra in 2013, an increase of 1138 cases (24.9%) as compared to 2012, which registered 4570 cases.

Crimes showing a significant increase are counterfeiting (225%), kidnapping and abduction (157.14%), rape (121.35%), arson (90%), sexual harassment (25.54%), prep and assembly for dacoity (25.51%), cruelty by husband or relatives (24.9%), dacoity (24.28%), robbery (24.02%), among others.

Out of the 5708 IPC crimes committed by juveniles in conflict with the law in 2013, 2341 were property offences, 2146 were body offences against people such as murder, rape, culpable homicide, attempt to murder, among others, while 4487 offences were under other crimes.

"Children wanting to do something 'different' because of peer pressure can indulge in crimes. Some have access to vehicles in their families, but resort to stealing due to peer pressure. The maximum number of cases, during my tenure in the juvenile justice board, were about minors involved in motorcycle thefts," said activist Anuradha Sahasrabudhe.

The urge to do something 'daring' often finds expression in sexual crimes or derogatory posts on the social media or stealing motorcycles for joyrides, said experts.

The larger concern is about violent crimes like rape. Increase in aggression and sexual activity in youngsters were to blame, child rights' activist Bharti Ali told TOI. "Access to cellphones and pornographic material has had its impact. Many children who have been sexually abused tend to abuse others," she added.

She said there has been a phenomenal increase in kidnappings and abduction cases registered against juveniles from 2001 to 2013. "Reporting and registration of crimes has gone up too. Many kidnappings and abductions which are elopement cases are registered as 'kidnapping'. But the contribution of juveniles in conflict with the law to offences under IPC is just 1.2%," Ali said.

Child rights activist Yamini Adbe said most juvenile crimes are committed by youngsters between 16 to 18 years of age. "It is necessary to bring down the adult age in India from 18 to 16 years , as till 16, a person's physical and mental development is complete," she said.

Observation homes meant to offer hope for delinquency do precious little, said experts. Many juveniles in conflict with the law run away from such observation homes. "Such places have far too many children, without proper staff like counselors or medical attendants to look after them," she said.

An official from Pune police's Juvenile Aid Preventive Unit said that juveniles in conflict with the law and their parents are counseled in observation homes on the 'open day' once a month. "Police personnel, representatives of NGOs and officials from the women and child development department counsel them. Many children do not know that what they do is a crime and have to be explained the right from the wrong," the official added.