The three-year sentence that on Saturday was awarded to the teenager, whose name has been withheld to protect his identity, in the Delhi gang rape and murder case has sparked a huge debate over the need to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
After Saturday’s verdict by the Juvenile Justice Board, most members of the civil society have come out in favour of amending the Act to and remove heinous crimes such as rape, gang rape, murder etc from its ambit but a few activists also are of the opinion that the juveniles in conflict with the law should be treated with care as they are influenced by wrong persons and need rehabilitation.
Advocate Sayaji Nangre was of the opinion that the laws dealing with juvenile offenders accused of serious crimes such as rape and murder should be amendment. “The punishment should be imposed based on the brutality of the crime and the circumstances involved,” Nangre said. “Let the court decide if a juvenile should be given the benefit of Juvenile Justice Act or be treated at par with other accused based on circumstances of the cases,” he added.
Special public prosecutor Raja Thakare voiced opinions similar to Nangre. He, however, also cautioned that the courts should be given the discretionary powers to take decisions on individual cases based on facts and circumstances. “It (Juvenile Justice Act) was enacted to help rehabilitation of juveniles in conflict with law, it was not enacted in context with any particular case,” said Thakare.
The maturity age of children is reducing due to exposure to several avenues such as thew media and the internet, Thakare said. “The amendment should give the powers to the judge and not be based strictly on the age of the accused. Let the judge decide in individual cases based on facts and circumstances of the victim and the accused,” he added.
Opposing the amendment, child rights’ activist Maharukh Adenwala, who is associated Childline NGO, said that the Act was meant for rehabilitation of the juveniles in conflict with law. “These children should be given an opportunity of a fresh start. They (juvenile offenders) have never had good role models and have been influenced by the wrong people,” said Adenwala.
One of the accused guilty of murder and rape in the Delhi gang rape case was sent to a correctional home for a period of three years, the maximum prescribed under the Juvenile Justice Act. The verdict could affect verdict in the case of gang rape of a photo-journalist in Mumbai, where one of the five accused is a minor.