Should juveniles guilty of heinous crimes be let off lightly?
New Delhi: The Juvenile Justice Board's decision to declare the sixth accused a minor in the December 16 Delhi gang-rape-murder case has triggered a debate on the need to amend the Juvenile Justice Act to fix responsibility for minors involved in heinous crimes.
After the JJB’s decision there is a growing resentment among common Indians, who now expect that the sixth accused – now declared a minor - would not face a maximum penalty of death in trial like the five other accused.
Reacting to the JJB’s decision, Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy, who had filed a petition in the court requesting it not to treat the sixth accused as a juvenile, said that he deserves a stricter punishement for his role in the December 16 case.
Meanwhile, the family of the Delhi gang-rape victim has also termed the JJB’s decision as "unfortunate" and said that they would challenge it in the court.
"The family would consult legal experts and challenge the matter in the relevant court," the brother of the girl told the reporters.
"The family is not ready to accept that the sixth accused get anything less than death penalty," the brother said, adding, "The minor accused should also get the same punishment of death penalty for which the central government should make necessary changes in the law."
The gang-rape victim's family expressed dismay over the JJB’s decision and said that it was not excepting the decision taken by the board.
"It shocked me and my family, the 23-year-old woman's younger brother said. I think that the board took the decision in favour of the accused on the ground of his school certificate," he said.
He said that as it was a rarest of the rare case, the board must order for a bone test that could assess the age. "The board should once think about the brutality of the incident before giving its decision," said the brother of the victim.
Meanwhile, the rape victim's 28-year-old male friend, who was also attacked by the accused in a moving bus December 16, 2012, also expressed his anger over the decision taken by the juvenile board.
"We will consult police and authorities to look if something could happen in the case," said father of the male victim.
"My son is not happy with the decision...as one of the accused will not get the proper punishment for his offence," the male victim's father said.
His relative said there was a need to amend the law.
Forty-three days after the horrific gang-rape shocked the country, the Juvenile Justice Board on Monday ruled that the sixth accused is a minor and hence cannot be tried and sentenced under criminal law.
The Board went with records of the school where the juvenile studied and then dropped out. The principals had produced school leaving records, which put his date of birth at June 04, 1995, making him 17 years and 6 months when the crime occurred.
The court had summoned both the then principal and the current principal of the school from which the juvenile dropped out in class 3.
The then principal of the school told the media outside the courtroom that the date on the register was as per the statement of the mother of the minor.
Delhi Police, which is investigating the case and expected to appeal against the board’s order, said that a detailed report on the role of the minor in the brutal rape and murder case has been submitted to the Board.
Under juvenile law, if the minor is found in conflict with the law, he can only be sent for reform for a maximum of three years in a correction centre under a probation officer. The five others accused are adults and are facing trial in a regular court. They have been accused of murder, which carries death as the maximum penalty.