In criminal law, the treatment of youthful offenders is a matter of considerable significance, with profound implications for both the individuals involved and society at large. The plea of juvenility serves as a pivotal legal mechanism through which defendants argue that they should be treated as juveniles rather than adults due to their age at the time of the alleged offense. This article examines the procedural and substantive aspects of raising a plea of juvenility, exploring the criteria and considerations involved in determining the status of youthful offenders within the justice system.

Juvenile Justice System:

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, governs the juvenile justice system in India. It defines a child as someone under 18 and emphasizes rehabilitation and reintegration. Juvenile Justice Boards handle cases involving children in conflict with the law, while Child Welfare Committees address children in need of care and protection. The Act prohibits certain punishments and ensures confidentiality and privacy for children. It also provides for adoption, aftercare, and the involvement of NGOs and civil society in its implementation. Overall, the Act aims to protect the rights and promote the well-being of children in the justice system

The primary goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate young offenders and give them a second opportunity. The primary reason for this protection is that children’s brains are not fully developed, and they lack a thorough understanding of what is wrong and right. When parents have inadequate parenting skills, an abusive home, domestic violence, or a single parent has left their children unsupervised for an extended period of time. The influence of news, movies, web series, social media, and a lack of education are all reasons why youth engage in illegal activity.

When and how plea of Juvenility may be raised?

The plea of juvenility can be raised at any point during legal proceedings, even after the case has been finalized. However, the timing and procedure for raising the plea may differ depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case. The following scenarios outline common instances in which the plea of juvenility may be raised:

  1. During Investigation: Accused individuals or their legal representatives may raise the plea of juvenility during the investigation stage if the offence was committed while they were minors. This typically involves informing the investigating officer or presenting evidence of the accused’s age.
  2. Before the Trial Court: The plea of juvenility can also be raised before the trial court during trial proceedings. The accused or their legal counsel may submit an application or orally assert that the accused was a minor at the time of the offence.
  3. Appeal or Review: Even following the disposal of a case by the trial court, the plea of juvenility can be raised during an appeal or review process. Appellants or their legal representatives may present new evidence or arguments to support the claim of juvenility.

Procedure for Plea of Juvenility:

The plea of juvenility is governed primarily by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Here’s the procedure for pleading juvenility:

  1. Raise the Plea: The accused or their legal representative must raise the plea of juvenility before the appropriate court at the earliest opportunity.
  2. Verification of Age: The court will then require the accused to provide proof of age to establish juvenility. This could include birth certificates, school records, or any other document deemed suitable by the court.
  3. Inquiry by Juvenile Justice Board (JJB): If the age of the accused is in question, or if there is doubt regarding the claimed age, the court may refer the matter to the Juvenile Justice Board. The JJB will conduct an inquiry to determine the age of the accused.
  4. Proceedings in JJB: The Juvenile Justice Board, upon receiving the reference, will conduct an inquiry to ascertain the age of the accused. This may involve medical examination, examination of witnesses, and any other as may deemed necessary.
  5. Decision by JJB: Based on the inquiry, the Juvenile Justice Board will determine whether the accused is a juvenile or not. If the accused is found to be a juvenile, the case will be dealt with under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act.
  6. Appeal: If the accused is not satisfied with the decision of the Juvenile Justice Board, they can appeal to the higher courts.
  7. Trial or Disposal: If the accused is determined to be a juvenile, the case will be transferred to the Juvenile Justice Board for trial and disposal according to the procedures outlined in the Juvenile Justice Act.


The plea of juvenility is a vital aspect of Indian criminal law, reflecting society’s recognition of the unique needs and vulnerabilities of children in conflict with the law. By providing a separate justice system for juveniles, the law seeks to ensure their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. However, it is essential to strike a balance between protecting the rights of children and ensuring justice for victims of crime. Stricter verification procedures and robust oversight mechanisms can help address concerns about misuse while upholding the principles of juvenile justice. It also reflects a commitment to juvenile justice, ongoing efforts are needed to strengthen the system, enhance verification procedures, and address any loopholes that may undermine its effectiveness. By upholding the principles of fairness, accountability, and rehabilitation, the plea of juvenility can continue to serve as a vital mechanism for promoting the welfare of children in the criminal justice system.

~Arisha Qureshi (LEGAL INTERN)

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