While the cacophony for the death sentence for the accused grows louder, most of us ignore the fact that the main accused in this crime is a juvenile. Forget about the death penalty, he cannot be jailed in a regular prison even for a day. Nor can he be tried in a regular court of law. This case should provoke a rethinking about our juvenile justice laws.
A century ago, US policy makers decided to divert juvenile offenders from punishment in criminal courts and shifted the focus to rehabilitation. Faced with public protests due to an alarming rise in juvenile offences, policy makers there in the past three decades have lowered the age of judicial waiver and enacted mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles in certain violent offences.
In India, no offender less than 18 years can be sent to jail because, howsoever ghastly the crime, it's presumed he is unaware of the consequences of his action. Surprisingly, the same people lowered the age of voting to 18 years and driving to 16 years on the grounds that a citizen at this age is matured to elect their representatives as well as drive safely on the roads.
In 2009, 844 murders, 603 attempt to murder and 798 rapes were committed by juveniles in India. While the country debates imposition of death sentence for the offence of rape, it's worthwhile to debate segregation of violent crime from ordinary ones for invoking juvenile justice law.
For the full text of the (personal) views of Mr Praveen Sood, IPS, ADGP (police computing wing), published in the ToI, click here.
When children are seen to be maturing faster in today's world (though, some the wrong way), and, in consonance with the same, the age for eligibility for driving licence has been lowered to 16, shouldn't they simultaneously be subjected to stricter criminal laws too, even if they be in the rarest of rare cases (where the present Delhi case fully fits in)? Perhaps, time for the Civil Society to pursue the matter jointly.