New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday ruled that the December 16, 2012 gang-rape "juvenile" convict, slated to be released from an observation home on December 20, cannot be kept back, leading to dismay among various sections of society with the victim's downcast family ruing that "crime has won".
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) said it will challenge the release by writing to President Pranab Mukherjee, and the chief justices of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.
A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath said the convict, who was found to be a juvenile at the time of the crime, cannot be kept at the observation home beyond December 20, the date set for his release.
"There can't be any direction to extend the stay beyond December 20," said the bench, in its decision on Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy's plea against the release of the "unreformed" juvenile convict, "until it is demonstrably assured that he has reformed, ceased to be radicalised and is not a menace to the society".
The court also directed that the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) shall interact with the juvenile, his parents/guardians as well as officials concerned of Delhi's women and child development department regarding his "post-release rehabilitation and social mainstreaming".
It said it was of the view "that the legal issue raised in the main writ petition, i.e., the need for ascertaining the factum of reformation of the juveniles in conflict with law before they are released from the special home on expiry of the period of stay ordered by the Juvenile Justice Board, is a larger issue of public importance which requires deeper consideration".
During the hearing, the central government had told the court that the juvenile's stay in an observation home should be extended till all aspects including mental health and post-release rehabilitation plans are considered by the authorities.
The court had earlier sought Intelligence Bureau (IB) report about him having been radicalised in a sealed cover. The IB had raised suspicion of the juvenile being radicalised after being shifted with a juvenile apprehended in connection with the Delhi High Court blast case.
The parents of the victim termed the decision of the court as completely in "favour of criminals".
"This decision has come to me as a mental shock. Though I am severely hurt with the decision of the court, but we cannot do anything now. We are helpless," the father of the victim told reporters outside the court.
"I am not satisfied with the court's decision. Today's decision only means that whatever crime happens with women, the law is not going to be changed. Crime has won and we have lost. I feel as if our fight has ended incomplete," said her mother.
The court's denial to stay the release of juvenile was termed a weak decision against serious criminals by people from various walks of society and said that there was a need to change the way Indian legal system operated.
"I am extremely sad that Nirbhaya's convict will walk free on (December) 20th. (It is) dark day in history of the county. I will be appealing to Chief Justice of High Court and Supreme Court and President to intervene. Nirbhaya rapist should not be released," tweeted DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal.
Delhi Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung stated: "I think the government is actively engaged to bring down the juvenile age. The juvenile homes have not been working very efficiently and the courts are monitoring them."
Six people, including the juvenile, had been arrested for brutally raping and injuring a para-medical student, leading to her death.
Out of the six, one was found dead in Tihar Jail and the juvenile was tried under the Juvenile Justice Act, under which he was sent to a remand home for three years. A trial court had awarded death penalty to the other four rapists which was upheld by the high court. Their appeals are pending before t he Supreme Court.