“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.