New Delhi, Dec 18: The Delhi High Court's refusal on Friday to block release of the 'juvenile' convicted in the 2012 gang rape case evoked concerns from people from various walks of life, many of them terming the verdict a weak decision.
Some of them sought changes in the Indian legal system, as they said if the courts released convicts on technical grounds even in such heinous cases as the December 16, 2012, Delhi gang rape in which the victim died of her grievous injuries, it might lead to erosion of public faith in the judiciary.
"I am extremely sad that Nirbhaya's convict will walk free on 20th (December 20)... dark day in the history of the country. I will be appealing to Chief Justice of High Court and Supreme Court and President to intervene. Nirbhaya's rapist should not be released," Delhi Commission for Women chairman Swati Maliwal tweeted.
A division Bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath said the convict, found to be a juvenile at the time of the crime, could not be kept at the observation home beyond December 20, the day set for his release.
It also directed that the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) should interact with the juvenile, his parents and guardians, as well as the officials concerned of the Delhi government's Department of Women and Child Development about his "post-release rehabilitation and social mainstreaming".
The decision left the parents of the dead victim -- Jyoti Singh Pandey -- crestfallen and heart broken as they put the court's decision as completely favouring the criminals.
"I am not satisfied with the court's decision. Today's decision only means no matter what sort of crime happens with the women, the law will remain unchanged. I feel as if our fight has ended in the middle," Asha Devi, Jyoti Singh's mother, told reporters outside the court.
"The decision has been mentally shocking. Though I am severely hurt with the court's decision, we cannot do anything now. We are helpless," Badrinath - the father of the victim nicknamed Nirbhaya by media to mask her identity in deference to the law - told reporters.
Delhi Governor Najeeb Jung expressed concern over the functioning of the juvenile homes, saying: "I think the government is actively engaged in bringing down the juvenile age. The juvenile homes are not working very efficiently and the courts are monitoring them."
The court delivered its verdict on Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy's plea that sought to prevent release of the "unreformed" juvenile convict in the 2012 gang rape case.
The central government had told the court the juvenile's stay in an observation home should be extended till all aspects, including mental health and post-release rehabilitation plans, were considered by the authorities.
Some people, however, supported the Delhi High Court's decision, saying now the focus should be the juvenile's rehabilitation.
"The juvenile is being released after serving his conviction time. There is nothing wrong in it. I welcome Delhi High Court's verdict on it. The focus should be now directed towards the rehabilitation of the juvenile," said Kavita Krishnan, secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA).
"In this case, reform and rehabilitation should be thought of. It is time for us to strengthen the juvenile laws in our country," she added.
The juvenile, who was under 18 years of age when he was arrested for the brutal rape and murder of the para-medical student, was tried under the Juvenile Justice Act. He was put in a remand home for three years, the maximum per missible under the legal provisions.
Speaking to IANS, CPI-M politburo member Brinda Karat said, "We stand by the law that differentiates juveniles from adults. In this case, the juvenile should be supervised and monitored."
"There should be amendment proposed to Juvenile Justice Act that period of reform in correctional institutions maybe increased from three years in such cases whenever found necessary by the Juvenile Justice board," Karat added.
Devangana Kalita, one of the core member of Prinjra Tod group that organises women "against gender-discrimination in education and other spheres of life", said laws should be made more stringent.
"Instead of focusing on the juvenile's case, we should now turn towards the Justice Verma Committee report to act accordingly against sexual violence against women," she said.
"We need to strengthen our existing laws as well as bring in new laws which will ensure that justice is served when a crime against women is committed," she added.