Change definition, let punishment for juvenile criminals depend on nature of crime

5 September 2013 | Shruti Kohli | NEW DELHI

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A juvenile rapist and murderer of a six year old girl was released after being “reformed” and the first thing he did after coming out of confinement was to threaten the victim’s family of similar consequences with their younger daughter. Vishal was sentenced to death by a trial court for the 2007 rape and murder but the Delhi High Court held him to be a juvenile and acquitted him as he had already spent five years in jail.

 

Whether you blame the reform process or the juvenile justice laws, it’s the victims, who are women and young girls and their families, who are at the receiving end because of the loopholes. Some have opposed same conviction for juveniles as awarded to adults in the same crime. But I strongly believe that the punishment should depend on the nature of the crime. Imagine a 17-year-old boy raping a six-year-old girl and then chopping her body into pieces, making separate packets of the pieces and dumping each packet in three different toilets!! I feel my innards churning in a violent whirlpool even as I write this!

 

This “juvenile” walks free after five years in jail. His sister, of course a woman enough, provides evidence to prove him a juvenile in the court. The bone ossification test finds him to be somewhere between the age of 17 and 20. Quite a range!

 

To begin with, a blanket legal definition of “juvenile” will have to be done away with. According to law, a person who has not completed 18 years of age at the time of committing a crime is a juvenile. The age was raised from 16 to 18 in India in 2000 as part of the India’s obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which it signed in 1992.

 

According to Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, there is no punishment for a juvenile in conflict with law. However, the juvenile can be sent to a reformatory for a maximum period of three years.

 

Crime syndicates are using these fragile laws as a shield and involving young boys in heinous crimes as they will get away easily (number of rapes by juveniles between the age of 16 and 18 has seen a 180 per cent rise from 2011 to 2011). The government will have to react sooner to rectify the laws to check the mushrooming of young criminals.

 

Some numbers connected with juveniles:

Rapes by juveniles aged between 16 and 18 in 2002: 48.7%

Rapes by juveniles aged between 16 and 18 in 2012: 66.5%

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