A teenager accused of running over a 32-year-old professional in a Mercedes in north Delhi will be tried as an adult, the juvenile justice board decided on Saturday in an unprecedented move that follows nationwide outrage over mounting crimes by underage perpetrators.
The board said the accused – who turned 18 four days after the incident in April -- is in no manner lacking in mental and physical capacity to commit the alleged offence.
“Past cases and evidence is strong to try him as an adult,” said the board. If convicted, the offender could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in jail.
The board also added that on the date of incident, the accused – a Class 12 student -- had the ability to understand the consequences of the offence. The accused was termed a ‘perpetual defaulter’, as he was fined thrice - twice for speeding and once for parking wrongly - last year.
The decision comes two days after HT reported that two friends of the young suspect travelling in the same Mercedes car begged him to go slow after near-misses with two bikers just before the fatal accident.
This is possibly the first time a person will be tried under India’s toughened new law on juvenile offenders that said any person between 16 and 18 years old can be tried as an adult in case of heinous crimes such as rape or murder.
This is important because underage offenders can only be sentenced to a maximum of three years in a juvenile home – a quantum of punishment that is too light for serious crimes, many activists say.
On April 4, the suspect and five of his friends were travelling in a speeding Mercedes car that allegedly mowed down 32-year-old Siddharth Sharma in north Delhi’s posh Civil Lines area.
Police booked the suspect for culpable homicide not a mounting to murder and asked the JJB to try him as an adult.
The JJB’s decision came amid a government push to hold parents accountable when their children get behind the wheel and cause accidents.
The government wants to amend the motor vehicles (MV) act to introduce a provision to charge the parents of juvenile drivers involved in crashes and send the errant minors to do community service.
Cases of underage drivers causing fatal crashes are on the rise in India, where a person dies every four minutes in road accidents. But weak laws and slack enforcement often mean a long wait for justice for the victims and their families.