Eminent child rights activists termed demands for reducing the age of juvenility from 18 to 16 and to remove minors involved in heinous crimes from the ambit of juvenile justice act purely on the basis of the Delhi gang-rape case a “knee-jerk reaction”.
They said it would be “counter-productive” and “not a deterrent”.
Bharti Ali of ‘HAQ’ centre for child rights said, “Such amendments under public pressure based on one incident will have long-term dangerous consequences on the plight of lakhs of other juveniles.”
Lawyer and juvenile justice expert Anant Asthana said the best way to ensure that juveniles do not get involved in horrific crimes like the Delhi gang rape and murder case was by effective enforcement of various provisions of the act and creating an effective system to deal with children in need of care and protection.
Ved Kumari, eminent expert on juvenile justice law and ex-chairperson of the Delhi judicial academy, said: “While condemning the ghastly gang rape, I want to focus on the child involved in the offence. This boy was all of 13 years when he left home. Why did he leave? What was his home like? What happened to him in the last five years? What all has been responsible for turning him into this beast? Why did the juvenile justice system in place in our country not reach out to him and prevented him from being what he has become today?”
Asthana added, “A child does not turn into a monster on his own in a day. It takes years of apathy and abandonment to make a child go astray in life.”
“One incident cannot be a reason to disturb the well thought-out purpose of the law…it will not only disturb the momentum of efforts to improve protection of children but also open a Pandora’s box wherein similar demands will be made for several other offences committed by a juveniles considered serious in nature,” said Amod Kanth, former chairperson of Delhi Commission for protection of child rights and general secretary of the NGO ‘Prayas’.
The experts had written to former CJI JS Verma, who had headed a panel which suggested changes in the anti-rape law, against making any changes in the approach towards juveniles.