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He Raped And Got Away: Need For Reviewing The Toothless Juvenile Justice Act

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By Akhil Kumar:

Delhi Court

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 was introduced as an improvement over the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 to help in the protection, care and rehabilitation of children under the purview of the juvenile justice system in India. The Act has set the age of 18 to determine juveniles; anyone under that age cannot be tried in a regular court no matter how serious the nature of the crime. Under the section 16 of the act, a juvenile can be sentenced to a maximum of 3 years imprisonment; but the moment he turns 18, he cannot be kept with other juveniles and neither can he be sent to an adult prison and thus can walk free. The recent judgment of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) declaring the sixth accused in the Delhi gang rape case as a juvenile has triggered widespread debate about the effectiveness of such laws.

If we talk about this particular case, the accused was 17-and-a-half years old at the time of the incidence which makes him a juvenile in the eyes of the law. He will turn 18 on June 4th, 2013 and hence released from protective custody. What is imperative to think is what enlightenment would he acquire in 5 months of custody? Will he not be a danger to a society any further? Will he experience a spiritual awakening or go laughing all the way home? Is this the kind of justice women are fighting for?

While I completely understand that there will always be some difficulties in cases involving a clear demarcation of age for childhood and adulthood, the law has to be fair to the victims also. This will further hamper the credibility of the rule of law in times when we are fighting for justice for women, should women fear juveniles now? The accused was allegedly the main culprit who brutally assaulted the couple after raping the girl, there is serious need for his psychological rehabilitation and I doubt that five months will be enough. I hear people taking potshots at the judiciary and mocking the whole judicial system after this development, their helplessness and insecurity has found voice in sarcasm directed at the administration. Though I strongly condemn the logic of “satisfying the collective conscience of the society” but what use are all the laws if people lose faith in the judiciary altogether? Some logical amendments have to be made in the act after active consultation from the people representing all sections of our society.

The laws are made to provide justice and for the welfare of the society, it would be tragic if the same is twisted and used as an escape instead. I do not suggest that we lower the age bar for juveniles, neither do I demand harsher punishment in “exceptional” cases; all I want is that the juvenile delinquents should at least serve their full sentence. I have been getting this scary idea since morning that what if a group of sociopath juveniles decide to celebrate their entry into adulthood by going on a rampage of gang rapes and murders days before they turn 18? Do we have an effective law in place to deter such acts? I suggest that we should have separate adult correctional homes for such cases where the juvenile turns into an adult before completion of his sentence. Proper counseling from skilled psychiatrists and follow up services should be made available in such correctional homes and the inmates released only if the psychiatrists are convinced that they have realized the consequences of their crime and are prepared to lead life as responsible citizen.

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  1. Think -Tank for a better India

    What if –

    If India had prisons that were categorized into (High security, medium security and minimum security) as in the US and some other countries, we may be able to solve this issue of Juveniles who commit serious crimes.

    Usually the argument given against putting juveniles accused of serious crimes into adult prisons is that how can one put them along with hardened adult criminals. Agreed that would be harsh. But at the same time leaving them in a Juvenile home is not feasible and releasing them is not justice.

    Now consider if we had a category of a minimum security prison …like in the US ….which according to wikipedia –

    “Prisoners in minimum security facilities are considered to pose little physical risk to the public and are mainly non-violent “white collar criminals”. Minimum security prisoners live in less-secure dormitories, which are regularly patrolled by correctional officers. Prisoners may often work on community projects, such as roadside litter cleanup with the state department of transportation or wilderness conservation. Many states allow persons in minimum-security facilities access to the Internet.”

    If our juveniles with longer sentences can be moved to such minimum security prisons when they turn adult, we may have a win-win. There can be a hope for their reform as the other convicts would be the ‘white collared criminals’ while justice to the victim stays intact.

  2. ipsa arora

    the person is declared a juvenile only by his school records and no medical tests! which is strange and surprising!

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