Call it the irony of the legal justice system.
Even as the five men arrested for the gangrape-cum-murder of a 23-year-old paramedical student face the possibility of a death sentence, if proved guilty, one juvenile accused would even escape a jail term.
The juvenile, according to the police, was the most brutal in the sexual assault on the victim.
The boy, who is seventeen-and-a-half-year-old, would not face the trial under the Criminal Procedure Code like his companions.
Though he would face heinous charges of murder, the juvenile would face proceedings under the Juvenile Justice Act that is more of a reformatory process instead of a criminal trial.
The juvenile can be sentenced for a maximum of three years if found guilty. Then, too, he would not be lodged in the Tihar jail but at a reformatory home.
According to senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, the Juvenile Justice Act does not discriminate the gravity of the offence irrespective of its nature. "The objective of the act is to reform the child because it is possible that he may have committed an act under influence."
Pahwa further says that the procedure to treat juveniles and adults cannot be the same in criminal law.
"A juvenile has got some constitutional protections and therefore he has to be treated separately," he adds, stating there is nothing incorrect in the system that treats a juvenile differently even for committing a heinous offence along with his adult friends.
In the present case, the police had done an ossification (bone) test on the juvenile after his arrest at Anand Vihar and found him to be below 18 years of age.
When children aged between seven and 18 years commit crimes, they are dealt with more humanely under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, which is in keeping with the UN Child Rights Commission.
Police claimed it was this juvenile who encouraged the couple to take the bus.