Rape Charges against Juveniles in India

July 29, 2023, 12:37 pm | Updated July 29, 2023, 6:05 pm IST
Rape Charges against Juveniles in India
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In India, incidents of rape are deeply concerning and gravely impact victims and society. When a juvenile is involved as an accused in such cases, the situation becomes more complex. Understanding the legal aspects of rape charges against juveniles in India is crucial to ensure fair and just proceedings while considering the rights and rehabilitation of both victims and the accused.

What do you mean by Rape?

Rape is a form of sexual assault that involves non-consensual sexual activity. It occurs when one person engages in sexual activity with another person without their explicit and voluntary consent. This can involve physical force, coercion, threats, manipulation, or taking advantage of someone who is incapable of giving consent (e.g., due to being intoxicated or unconscious).

Juvenile Justice System in India

The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 was passed in the year 2000 with the intention of protecting children. The aforementioned Act was modified twice: once in 2006 and again in 2011.The modification was created to close the implementation's gaps and flaws.

Additionally, the alarming "Delhi Gang Rape Case" occurrence and the rise in juvenile crime cases in recent years have compelled lawmakers to pass new legislation. The Act's main flaw was that it had inadequate legal protections, and India's broken juvenile justice system also made it difficult to stop juvenile crimes there. The Juvenile Justice(Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 quickly took its place.

Currently, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, is the primary legislation governing juvenile matters in India. This act aims to protect the rights and interests of children in conflict with the law and those in need of care and protection.

Who is a Juvenile?

According to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, a juvenile is any person below the age of 18 years.

Laws Related to Rape Charges against Juveniles in India

In India, incidents of rape involving juveniles as accused are dealt with under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, and other relevant legal provisions. The country's legal framework takes into consideration the delicate age of the accused and aims to strike a balance between accountability and rehabilitation. Here, we explore the key laws related to rape charges against juveniles in India.

  1. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

    The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, is the primary legislation governing juvenile offenses, including rape. It defines a juvenile as any person below the age of 18 years, emphasizing the need for a separate juvenile justice system. The Act aims to provide care, protection, and rehabilitation for children in conflict with the law while safeguarding their rights and interests.

  1. The Criminal law (Amendment Act), 2013 

    Despite being 17 years old, the juvenile offender in the 2012 Delhi Gang Rape was convicted as a minor and spared the full force of the law. Following the release from custody of the youngest defendant in the 2012 Delhi gang rape, a movement to reform the legislation gained steam. The victim's parents ran a campaign to demand justice for their daughter.
    In order to prevent future instances like these, the Indian parliament enacted a bill in 2015 allowing juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18 to be tried as adults for heinous crimes like rape or murder. Prior to the measure, sentences for those under the age of 18 could only be as long as three years in a reform institution. The law established that juveniles who commit brutal and severe murders and rapes between the ages of 16 and 18 will be tried and punished as adults. As a result, on March 19, 2013, the Criminal Law (Amendment Act) 2013, also known as the "Anti Rape Bill," was passed.

  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860

    The Indian Penal Code, 1860, has long regarded rape as a criminal offense.  According to Section 375, rape is an act committed by a man who engages in sexual activity with a woman under conditions that meet the legal criteria.

  1. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 

    The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 was unveiled in 2018. The death penalty is now the harshest sanction possible. It was viewed as unwanted by the general public because it victimized both male and female minors and was hurried without the necessary use of thought.

  1. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012   

    On May 22, 2012, the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 (POCSO) Act, was approved by the Parliament. It becomes effective on November 14, 2012.This rule was put into place to safeguard kids from crimes including sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography committed against people under the age of 18. The provisions and regulations of this law are still largely unimplemented and unknown, despite the great need for them.

Some key aspects of Juvenile’s Actions in Rape Cases

In rape cases where juvenile is the perpetrator, it becomes essential to strike a balance between holding the juvenile accountable for their actions and ensuring their reintegration into society as a reformed individual. Some of the key aspects in this regard are discussed below;

Determining the Age of the Accused

One critical aspect in juvenile rape cases is determining the age of the accused. In some instances, the accused may claim to be a juvenile to avail the benefits of a lenient juvenile justice system. To tackle this issue, the Juvenile Justice Act provides for an assessment to ascertain the age of the accused through medical tests or other means. This process helps ensure that genuine juveniles receive the appropriate treatment, while those who fall under the purview of the adult justice system face its consequences.

Trial Procedures for Juvenile Rape Cases

The trial of a juvenile accused of rape takes place before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB). The proceedings are relatively closed and confidential to protect the identity of the juvenile and facilitate a conducive environment for rehabilitation.

The JJB, through its inquiry, evaluates the mental and physical capacity of the accused, their background, socio-economic conditions, and the circumstances that led to the alleged crime. The objective is to understand the root cause of the juvenile's actions and create an individualized rehabilitation plan.

Rehabilitation and Reformative Measures

India's juvenile justice system emphasizes the reform and reintegration of young offenders into society. For juveniles accused of rape, the focus is on counseling, education, vocational training, and psychological support to address the underlying issues that contributed to the crime.

The JJB may also place the juvenile in a special home or rehabilitation center, where they receive care and guidance in a structured environment. The goal is to ensure that the juvenile emerges as a responsible and productive member of society.

Controversies and Challenges

While the rehabilitative approach of the juvenile justice system is well-intentioned, it has faced criticism from some quarters. Critics argue that some juvenile offenders, especially those involved in heinous crimes like rape, should face harsher punishments as a deterrent to others.

There is an ongoing debate about reducing the age of juveniles accused of serious crimes to be treated as adults. However, proponents of the existing system argue that the focus should be on improving the rehabilitation process and addressing societal factors contributing to juvenile delinquency.


Rape charges against juveniles in India are a complex and sensitive issue that demands a balanced approach. While it is essential to protect the rights of victims and ensure justice, it is equally crucial to offer a chance for reform and rehabilitation to young offenders. The Indian juvenile justice system, despite facing challenges, emphasizes the importance of nurturing the potential for change in every child accused of a crime. Striking the right balance between accountability and compassion is the key to creating a safer and more just society for all. If you are facing any issues related to juvenile justice, it is advisable to consult a criminal/juvenile lawyer in India/Kolkata.

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