Juvenile Law Needs Reform

First verdict in brutal rape and assault case of Nirbhaya has come out nine months after the incidence. The juvenile justice board had found the juvenile accused guilty of most of the charges slapped by police. However, despite being one of the most brutal, the juvenile got only three years in a reformatory minus the time already served. So in plain and simple term, the juvenile will spend two years and four months in reformatory.

Debates have started on the light sentence meted out to the juvenile accused. Some have suggested that the juvenile should have gotten death sentence. Others felt the legal age a juvenile should be reduced from 18 to 16. Yet others feel, given the deprived social status of the juvenile, we should give him a chance to reform. Some people have given a different twist to the whole event. Society is upset at the juvenile because he is not from same social status as the protesting class. It has also suggested that we have not protested as much for many other rapes that have happened or happening every day in our cities, towns and villages. While I accept the argument, it is important to accept that some events act as  catalyst to bring about massive change. Nirbhaya incidence happened to be one of them, where society moved spontaneously.

Debates aside, what answer does society give to the family of the victim. Accused may have a deprived and depraved childhood, but victim was not responsible for it. What do we say to mother, father and siblings of the victim. Yes, by killing the juvenile, we may not get back Nirbhaya. But three years for extreme brutalisation! Personally I think if Indian courts cannot punish the most brutal of Nirbhaya’s tormentors, then what faith common people like us can have on law and order? Court went by strictest interpretation of the law that the accused was a juvenile, yes six months short of eighteen, at the time he committed the crime. This six months made him eligible for pardon from death penalty. Yet this person was old enough to lure, rape and disembowel the victim. Other atrocities have not yet made their way to public domain. The accused was convicted of most of heinous charges slapped on him. In many countries, USA and UK, criminals are punished based on gravity of crime. Age of criminal is not brought into consideration. But we are different in India. We want to reform a most hardened criminal. We cannot take care of our regular population. Yet we want to reform a criminal in the name of protecting a juvenile! If we want to go by letter of the law, we might as well use robot to dispense justice. That will be more cost effective, time efficient and likely will remove backlog.

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