The general exception of infancy is defined in section 83 of the IPC. As per this Section nothing is an offence if it is done by a child above seven years of age and under twelve, who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences of his conduct on that occasion.
The child offenders in this section are treated as per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. In general terms, it is applicable to people who are not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts.
This immunity is based on the concept of juvenile justice. Articles 15(3) and 39(e) and (f) of the Indian Constitution also indicate to the juvenile justice system. As per these, the state can make any provision for children and women. Children of tender age won’t be abused and they would be protected against moral and material abandonment.
The upbringing of children will decide how they grow up as adults. Society is being governed by adults so in turn the upbringing of these children will decide the future of society. It is necessary to take precautions while dealing with child offenders. They cannot be treated as an adult offender for the same offence.
- ACT OF CHILD UNDER SEVEN YEARS OF AGE
Section 82 of IPC exempts children between the ages of 7-12 from criminal liability as they are considered as doli incpax i.e. incapable of committing a crime and cannot be held guilty for the offence. It is based on the principle of quia militia supplet aetatem, which means that malice makes up for age. Children below 7 years of age are completely exempted whatsoever (totally absolved) but the guilt of children between 7-12 years old will be determined form their capacity of understanding the nature of the act which they do.
If cases of mischievous discretion are proved then children between the ages of 7-12 can be held liable under the juvie act.
- DETERMINATION OF THE AGE OF THE ACCUSED JUVENILE
The section gives a fixed time of 7-12 years for a child to come into the category of a juvenile offender. There are three determinants of this factor. First is the date of commission of the crime. Second is the nature of the evidence and the third is the stage at which the plea that the accused child is juvenile can be taken. This can be well understood with the help of the following cases.
Umesh Chandra v State of Rajasthan – in this case the supreme court held that the age of the accused shall be determined to form the date of occurrence not from the date of trial. It was supported by Pratap Singh v. State of Jaharkhand. The court, in this case, held that the age of the juvenile is the date of an offence committed by him and not the date at which he was presented before the juvenile board or court.
It should be noted that the language used in the act is “hold the inquiry” and not the trial of the juvenile. A juvenile can’t be out in jail or a police station. Juvenile offenders need to be “treated” rather than “punished” for their crime. Juvenile courts and houses are also based on the same principle.
- RATANLAL & DHIRAJLAL, The Indian Penal Code, 2006
- P S A Pillai’s Criminal Law, LexisNexis, 2019