A flawed legal system helps juvenile rapist to evade death?

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First shocker--a heinous crime (gang-rape) being committed against a bright and promising woman, which led to her death. Second shocker--our justice system will let one of the accused of the barbaric crime go scot-free.

Where will this entire episode take us as a nation? Surely, to an abyss of utter-disbelief in our delivery of justice. How could Juvenile Justice (JJ) Board treat the sixth accused as a regular minor and set him free without any punishment? Are our laws archaic, where it cannot identify between a heinous and minor crime?

On December 16, 2012, a group of six men gang-raped and severely assaulted a 23-year-old paramedical student and her male friend in a moving bus in the national capital. The severely injured women later died in a Singapore hospital on Dec 29, 2012. The entire episode of barbarity against the woman shocked the nation. People came out on the streets to protest against the crime. The entire nation is demanding capital punishment for all the six rapists as a deterrence.

Protest Against Rape

However, JJ Board declared on Monday, Jan 28 that the minor accused among six who raped the girl and assaulted her friend deserved a chance at reformation instead of punishment. The decision of the JJ Board will help the sixth accused get away with least penalty. The JJ Board said it accepted the accused date of birth as 4 June 1995, making him 17 years old. Five other accused are on trial for the crime at a specially convened fast-track court and face the death penalty.

"He is a juvenile. The Juvenile Justice Board declared the sixth accused as a juvenile on the basis of the date of birth (June 4, 1995) on his school certificate," said prosecutor Ishkaran Singh Bhandari.

"June 4, 1995, has been taken as his date of birth. The gang-rape happened on December 16, 2012. So, the accused was below the age of 18 on the day the offence was committed," Bhandari explained. "The birth certificate of the accused was presented to the board by his school principal who came from Uttar Pradesh."

What does Indian law says regarding Juvenile, Crime and Punishment?

In India the sentencing and trial of juvenile offenders is mandated and governed by the Juvenile Justice Act 2000. Section 1(4) mandates that all cases involving detention, prosecution, penalty and sentence of imprisonment involving juveniles shall be governed by the Juvenile Justice Act. Section 2(l) defines a juvenile as any child who has not yet completed eighteen years of age. Section 15(1)(g) of the JJ Act further mandates that a juvenile convicted of any offence can be sentenced to be sent to a special home for a period of three years, maximum and thereafter be released on probation.

However, section 16 of the Act also provides that a juvenile can be kept at the special home only till he turns 18 and cannot be sent to jail thereafter.

Juvenile rapist, the most brutal of all accused

Police sources say juvenile was the most brutal of all the rapists. Police say the juvenile committed a barbaric act. He raped the victim twice and took out the intestines of the 23-year-old physiotherapist with his bare hands.

According to the police, it was the juvenile accused who had coaxed the woman and her friend to board the bus and after perpetrating the savage crime, he had suggested that she be thrown off the moving vehicle devoid of her clothes.

"The brutalisation of the couple had unfolded just three to four minutes after the juvenile coaxed them onboard around 9:30 pm, claiming that the bus was a chartered one heading to Palam," said an officer who investigated the case.

Who is this juvenile?

Since the sixth accused is a juvenile, police has not revealed his identity. Very little is known about the minor accused except that he committed a heinous which is unpardonable. The juvenile, allegedly the most brutal among the six, had fled his home in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh six-and-a-half years ago and arrived in Delhi in search of a job, according to a police report. When he left home he was around 11-year-old. He is the eldest among all his siblings--two sisters and four brothers. His father is mentally challenged and his mother works as a farm labourer.

What laws of other countries say?

In countries like England and Australia, the age of criminal responsibility, is set at 10 years. Moreover, Unites States has drawn a clear distinction between juveniles as victims of an unresponsive society and those who are fully aware of the heinousness of their crimes. Thus several countries have adopted a legal system where heinous crimes don't go unpunished because of age factor.

Juvenile Justice Act 2000 is rigid

A women's rights activist Neelima Kumar says that Juvenile Justice Act 2000 is rigid in its approach. Kumar says the act treats a bicycle thief and a rapist equally. "This is a flawed law and needs to be amended," she demanded.

Woes of the victim's family

Father of the brutal Delhi gang-rape episode has expressed disappointment after JJ Board pronounced that the sixth rapist was a minor and can't be tried with other five accused. The father of the Delhi gang-rape victim has demanded capital punishment for all the six rapists, who repeatedly raped and murdered the 23-year-old women.

"Sazaa kisi sey kam nahin honaa chahiye, chahey woh juvenile hai ya kuchh bhi hai (the punishment should not be less even if he is a juvenile)," Delhi gang-rape victim's father said. He said the punishment should be equal for all. "Sab ko barabar. Barabar maney phansi (same punishment for all, in other words death sentence)," he said.

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