As the country debates the need to amend its laws on juvenile age, Punjab’s crime graph reveals that even the relatively young are committing heinous crimes such as rape and murder.
Overall, the state mirrors the countrywide trend – 64% of juveniles apprehended for various crimes fall in the 16 to 18 years age group. But seven of the 16 rapes committed by juveniles in Punjab last year were by 12 to 16 year olds.
Last year’s crime data reveals that a total of 245 juveniles were apprehended for murder, rape, kidnapping, theft, cheating and other crimes under the IPC. The highest cases were that of theft (65), followed by burglary (41). Though the numbers fell in case of heinous crimes -- 10 juveniles were apprehended last year on murder charges, of which one was in the age group seven to 12, three between 12 and 16 and six in the 16 to 18 group -- those charged with rape, kidnapping and abduction of women and girls was higher.
What’s more worrying is that of the 16 apprehended for rape, seven were 12 to 16 year olds. Another 11 boys, of which 10 were between the age 16 and 18, were charged for abduction of girls.
The figures, say sociologists and psychologists, prove that it is not the age but the nature of crime that should decide the quantum of punishment. “The debate should not hinge on lowering the age of juveniles to decide the punishment but on the category of the crime. The 12 to 16 being a highly impressionable age these children are more likely to commit crime without thinking of the implications,” says Rajesh Gill, professor of sociology, Panjab University.
Simi Waraich, a psychiatrist with Fortis Hospital, SAS Nagar, attributes it to easy access to drugs and alcohol. “Lowering the juvenile age from 18 to 16 is not the answer. What about heinous crimes committed by 12 to 16 year olds? Punishment in such cases should be decided by courts after consulting a team of behavioural experts,” she adds.