Difference Between Minor and Juvenile


To understand the basic difference between the two, we must first start our journey by understanding the history of both of them. In the legal fraternity of the world, a minor is supposed to be the person under a prescribed age, which legally acts as a line between childhood and adulthood. Generally speaking, this age is 18 in many parts of the world. Whereas, in common law, criminal intent was not considered for a person below the age of 7 years, and further, between the age of 7 and 14, the burden of proof was upon the degree of understanding in the particular person concerned. The first Juvenile Court, which was supposed to deal with just the matters concerning the minor persons, was set up in England for the first time in the early 1900s.

It would be safe to say that, both the words, Minor and a Juvenile have almost the same meaning but they are separately used in two different contexts and inculpation. “Minor” and “Juvenile” both are defined in various laws of India and other countries. For instance, in the Indian Majority Act, 1875 considered to be one of the oldest Indian Law to talk about minors, “defines the age of majority as 18 years, so a minor shall be a person below the age of 18 years”[1]; in the Indian Contract Act 1872, “a minor is a person who has not attained the age of 18 years, and hence he/she cannot be a party to a contract”[2]. But, in an altogether different context, as per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 a juvenile and a child has been defined in the same sense which is, “as a person who has not completed 18 years of age”[3].

The Juvenile Justice System in India

After we gained independence from the British we had a new era waiting for us around the corner. We can also see for reference in the Constitution of India that there are many provisions which specifically deal with the rights of the children, their survival and needs for their all-round development for instance, the Fundamental Rights (Article 21A), the Fundamental Duties and the Directive Principle of State Policy.

The Children Act 1960

The Children Act of 1960 was the first legislation which specifically dealt with children in our country which was a necessary that time. We were a country which was leaving behind a war for independence, a war with another country, and the children were in dire need of basic necessities. There were some programmes which were launched and announced in the first-ever Five Year Plan in the year 1951, but clearly they were not enough when coupled with ongoing industrialization in the country in the late 1950s. The Government of India was in dire need to enact a law and enacted the Children Act, 1960. At first, it was only applicable in the Union Territories of the country but later on, it was accepted and adopted across most of the states in the country.

The said act provided, education, welfare, rehabilitation, protection and care for disregarded children errant in nature. During the timeline, many children started committing the act of theft as juvenile delinquency. And for the very first time in history the said act prohibited that if a child is convicted of any act, he/she shall not be sent to jail whatsoever be the circumstances. The act demarcated jails from separate legal authorities which shall deal with such children only.

As per the provisions of the act, for the first time, there was a 3-tier institutions opened in the country for dealing with juvenile delinquents, which were, there shall be a home specially made for children, where they shall stay after their trial and they shall be looked after, secondly, there shall be an observation home where they shall stay until their trial is over, and lastly, a special school where they shall be taught. The act defined, child as, if a boy, then below 16 years of age and if girl, then below 18 years of age.

The Juvenile Justice Act 1986

The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1959 and the Children Act 1960 paved the way all along for the Juvenile Justice Act 1986 to be enacted in India. As per the act, no juvenile was supposed to be kept in a jail or detention by the police for any crime or act committed. A Juvenile Welfare Board and a Juvenile Court was specially set-up as under the Act for dealing with only Juvenile Delinquents. Furthermore, many homes and schools were built for juvenile delinquents before and after their trial.

In the year 2000, keeping in mind, the various loopholes in the act of 1986, a special act was enacted called the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act 2000, which was further amended in the year 2015.

[1] The Indian Majority Act 1875

[2] Sec. 11, The Indian Contract Act 1872

[3] Sec. 2(k), Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000

This article is authored by Anurag Mohan Bhatnagar, student of B.A.LLB. (Hons.) at National Law University Odisha.

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