Juvenile Justice Bill
After the 2012 Delhi Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case it was found that one of the accused was a few months short of being 18. As per the existing law he was tried by a juvenile court and sentenced to 3 years in a reform home. The victim’s mother criticised the verdict and said that by not punishing the juvenile the court was encouraging other teenagers to commit similar crimes. This sentiment was shared by a large percentage of the society, outraged by the barbaric crime. I was one of them. We were convinced that the accused had got away lightly because of the existing law. We did not want a repeat of the same for the betterment of the society. We felt that the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 needed to be amended to include punitive approaches in the existing Juvenile Justice Law, which was apparently purely rehabilitative and reformative. The Nirbhaya accused had not behaved like a juvenile and deserved to be treated as an adult.
Salient Points of the Bill
- The bill was introduced in the Parliament by Maneka Gandhi on 12 August 2014. On 22 April 2015, the Cabinet cleared the final version after some changes.
- The bill will allow a Juvenile Justice Board, which would include psychologists and sociologists, to decide whether a juvenile criminal in the age group of 16–18 should tried as an adult or not.
- The bill also seeks to make the adoption process of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children more streamlined.
Major criticism is against the “Judicial Waiver System” which allows in certain conditions to treat juveniles in adult criminal justice system and to punish them as adults. The arguments are mainly that these individuals at such a young age will become hardened criminals.
Arguments in Support of Juvenile Bill
I strongly support the Juvenile Bill and my arguments to counter the criticism are as follows:
- The accused in Nirbhaya case behaved like a hardened criminal and it was only fair to treat him as such. The Juvenile Justice Board will be mature enough to realize as to whether a 16-18 years old person be treated as an adult or not.
- Deterrence is a must to prevent heinous crimes.
- The age of maturity is reducing in the world compared to earlier times. The laws should be in accordance with contemporary needs.