Dec 16 case: why SC didn't change age of juvenility

  • Satya Prakash, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Dec 02, 2013 18:15 IST

The juvenile accused in the December16 gang-rape and murder of paramedical student, is escorted after he was produced before the Juvenile Justice Board in New Delhi on August 31. (PTI File Photo)

“There is little doubt that the incident (gang-rape) which occurred on the night of December 16, 2012, was not only gruesome, but almost maniacal in its content, wherein one juvenile, whose role is yet to be established, was involved. But such an incident, in comparison to the vast number of crimes occurring in India, makes it an aberration rather than the rule.”

This is what the Supreme Court said on July 17 while rejecting a batch of petitions seeking a direction to the Centre to take steps to make changes in the law to ensure that juveniles be tried under normal law in heinous offences like rape and murder.

“In  recent  years,  there has been a spurt in criminal activities by adults,  but not so by juveniles....In  the  absence of any proper data, it would not be wise on our part to deviate from the provisions of the  Juvenile Justice (Care and  Protection  of  Children)  Act,  2000,  which represent the collective wisdom of Parliament,” a three-judge bench headed by the then chief justice of India Altmas Kabir had said. (READ: Proposed juvenile law to have tougher punishments)

“If what has come out from the reports of the Crime Records Bureau is true, then the number of crimes committed by juveniles comes to about 2% of the country’s crime rate,” it had noted.

The bench had said the essence of the Act and the Rules framed under it in 2007, is restorative  and  not  retributive, providing for rehabilitation and re-integration of children in conflict with law into mainstream society.

“The age of  eighteen  has  been  fixed  on  account  of  the understanding  of  experts  in  child  psychology  and behavioural  patterns  that  till  such  an  age  the children  in  conflict  with  law  could  still  be redeemed  and  restored  to  mainstream  society, instead  of  becoming  hardened  criminals  in  future,” it hd noted.

While admitting that there could be exceptions where a child in the age group of sixteen to eighteen may have developed criminal propensities, which would make it virtually impossible for him/her to be reintegrated into mainstream society,  the SC had said, “but  such examples are not of such proportions as to warrant any change in thinking, since it is probably better to try and re-integrate children with criminal propensities into  mainstream  society, rather  than to allow them to develop into hardened criminals, which does not augur well for the future.”

But the Supreme Court on August 22 admitted a petition by former MP Subramanian Swamy seeking interpretation of the definition of "juvenile" under the Juvenile Justice Act.


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