Sending the teen accused to a reformatory home for three years is like acquitting him in the case, parents of the 23-year-old student who was brutally gang-raped on December 16 said after the verdict on Saturday.
The Juvenile Justice Board on Saturday convicted the minor — who was 17-and-a-half years at the time of the crime and is now an adult — of the crime that sparked outrage across the country and triggered violent protests in the capital.
The outrage forced the government to set up fast-track courts to deal with crime against women, especially of sexual assault.
The minor, the most brutal of the six people who had raped the girl on a moving bus, is the first to be convicted and sentenced.
The victim’s parents were among the first to demand that the juvenile be tried along with the adult accused, who face the death sentence if found guilty of rape and murder.
But the juvenile court accepted his school records that said that he was born in 1995, making him 17-and-a-half-years-old at the time of the crime.
“It is a crime to be born a girl in this country. How will I live knowing that the killers of my daughter are still alive?” said the mother of the victim, crying inconsolably.
Spontaneous protests erupted soon after the board announced its verdict. Outside the court, a group of youths wearing black head bands with “Justice for December 16 gang rape victim” written on it shouted slogans and demanded the death sentence for the juvenile accused.
SK Singh, the lawyer for the woman’s parents, said they would challenge before the Delhi High Court the validity of the documents that were submitted to determine the age of the accused.
“There are various other factors to be considered to determine the culpability. We will demand that the juvenile be tried afresh at a regular court and will not rest till he gets the death sentence,” said Singh.
“We don’t know much about law, but we know that if the juvenile gets a lighter punishment it will send out a wrong message. It will encourage more such crimes,” the mother said.
During the course of the trial, there were demands to exclude minors involved in heinous offences such as rape and murder from the purview of the Juvenile Justice Act and try such people in regular courts.
The Supreme Court recently dismissed a bunch of petitions that demanded a reduction in the age of juvenile from 18 to 16 years.
The Justice JS Verma Committee, which looked into the matter, had rejected a similar demand.
The Supreme Court later admitted a petition filed by Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy who said that “mental and intellectual maturity” of minor offenders must be considered while fixing their culpability. The petition urged the court to remove the rule that any accused aged less than 18 years should get benefit of the juvenile act.