Even as the apex court recently rejected the plea to lower the age of juveniles from 18 years to 16 years in heinous crimes, most juvenile criminals in the state were in the age group of 16 to 18 years last year with 4,037 out of 5,931 juvenile delinquents falling in this age group, according to figures from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Experts said that it is time to start a debate on the age of juvenile criminals.
Leading criminal lawyer Majid Memon said that in the recent Delhi gang rape case, which created waves nationwide, the youngest offender was below 18 years of age, and his was found to be most grievous crime.
Naturally, he said, there has been outcry for the highest punishment to him. But since the boy was less than 18 years of age on the date of the crime, he is protected by the law under the Juvenile Justice Act.
This probably is the main reason to start a debate on reconsidering the age limit in cases of juvenile offenders.
“Only a few years ago, after anxious considerations, it was found that the age from 16 should be enhanced to 18 for juvenile criminals and accordingly, the amendment in law was affected. Now again, it is felt that the age be brought down from 18 to 16,” said Memon.
YP Singh, former IPS officer said, “For certain heinous crimes, like the recent Delh gang rape, the juvenile age should be reduced. Unlike earlier days, the social environment now has changed and maturity comes faster. Hence youngsters now are more prone to committing crimes. Taking this into consideration, it is imperative that the age limit be reduced, at least for serious offences.”
The Supreme Court’s July 17 judgment in the Salil Bali case had noted that there was no data to support public perception — formed after the gruesome gang rape case of a paramedic in Delhi in December last year — on the spurt in heinous crimes involving juveniles.
It had said reformation was more important for juveniles than attaching a permanent criminal tag to them.
It was only on August 1 that the Supreme Court agreed to hear a PIL arguing that a juvenile’s culpability should be determined on his mental maturity rather than physical age.