News Does India Need To Change Its Juvenile Law?   Email this page
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Bangalore: As India is fighting relentlessly for justice, a new finding in the Delhi gang rape case is questioning the concept of justice in the country. It has been brought forth that the sixth suspect in the heinous rape is affirmed a minor. The Juvenile justice board (JJB) declared the sixth accused as a juvenile. As a minor below 18 years of age, he would probably face 3 years in juvenile detention at the most. This has created a stir in the nation imploring the justice system to modulate the law focused more on the crime than the age of the accused, reported Mark Magnier for LA Times.
If the sixth accused is tried as an adult he would join the rest of the five offenders who could face life imprisonment or even execution. Among the five, two of them Vinay Sharma, gym instructor and driver Mukesh Singh have also contended to be minors.

The police said that the action of the sixth suspect, who is reported to be 17 years and six months of age at the time of the crime, was most brutal. The suspect’s mother informed in an interview with the Reuters news service that he left home when he was 11 years old. The family lost all contacts with him and assumed him to be enslaved by someone or even dead. However he managed to get a job as an errand boy for a bus company.The other five suspects are charged with murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy. Now the case has taken an unlikely turn with the decision of JJB. Even though the justice system has fast tracked the case and is struggling with it, the country is expecting the most strict and severe punishment for the rapists.

The case has also highlighted the increasing number of juvenile offenders in India. As recorded that young Indians are migrating to the cities in large number, which has created a huge social disconnect and has intensified the gap between haves and have-nots, as informed by Bharti Ali, co-director of New Delhi's Haq Center for Child Rights. She said, “The stark contradictions are right around them and very disturbing,” as reported by LA Times.

Juvenile crime has increased due to poor education, weak social services and persistent unemployment. As per the National Crime Records Bureau over 33,000 minors were arrested nationwide for serious crimes in 2011, the highest recorded number in the country in a decade. Over 1,400 cases of rape by juveniles were reported in 2011, opposed to 400 in 2001.

Shweta Kapoor, an attorney who practices before the Supreme Court filed a public-interest petition arguing that juvenile laws should be rewritten and the alleged juvenile suspect be charged as an adult based on his mental rather than physical age. She said, “India needs faster handling of these cases as well so suspects don't believe they can get away with such heinous crimes,” as reported by LA Times.

Krishna Tirath, minister for women and child development said the government wasn't in favor of a reduction in the age of majority; however stringent punishment is needed in "rarest of rare" cases, like in the Delhi rape case.

As opposed by child-care advocates stating that Indian law makes allowances for immaturity, setting the marriageable age for boys at 21 and girls at 18, however, this principle shouldn't be ignored when it's convenient. If society is caught up in a media frenzy phase, as it’s said, it doesn’t mean there is no time or need to rewrite law.

Khusboo Jain, a sociologist who has done extensive research on street children, said, “The idea of justice right now is immediate and pretty vengeful. This would be bad precedent. Everyone would want every kid to be hanged. Rather than needed reform, we're talking about retribution,” reported by LA Times.

The treatment juveniles get in India has been criticized for extensive brutality. The suspect held as juvenile was taken to the hospital with acute appendicitis apparently after he was beaten by other inmates at the juvenile home.

Raj, a 21 year old billboard painter said that he was arrested by police on theft charges at 16, beaten by them and made to sign blank papers. He was held in the nocuous Tihar jail for two months, before authorities reviewed documentary proof of his age and transferred him to a juvenile facility, where he learned to paint.

He said, “I don't think the legal age for minors should be lowered, everyone should be given a second chance,” as reported by LA Times.

Another former detainee, a 26-year-old law student, Khan who received the first hand experience of the juvenile justice system decided to pursue a career in law. He said he believes the alleged juvenile suspect should be charged as an adult. He further said, “It's not like an abandoned child stealing some food. We don't need education to tell us that women should not be raped," as reported by LA Times.

With the protest in the capital demanding faster and strict punishment, the justice system is still considering the matter from every angle. The sixth suspect, said to be the most brutal declared juvenile has added to the wrath of the mass, however, the need for fairer justice is voicing out for the law to be re-written in the country.

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