Delhi rape: Juvenile verdict may mock at justice

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New Delhi, July 10: A Delhi court will pronounce the first verdict tomorrow in the fatal gangrape on a moving bus on December 16. It involves the juvenile accused. The judgement will again highlight the mocking gap between purpose and reality of Juvenile Justice Act in the country.

A juveniles court in the capital has finished hearing the case of a teenager, aged 17 at the time of the crime, who faces a maximum sentence of three years in a correctional facility if found guilty.

The sentence will stir up a debate and outrage as there is harsh law for the adults in crimes against women.

There have been calls to declare the juvenile accused as adult and hold trial of him alongside the other adult accused for the savage crime on December 16.

If found guilty, the juvenile can be sent to a correctional facility for a maximum three-year term. But herein lies the tragedy of justice and punishment under Juvenile Justice Act.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000 is administered by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and not by jail or home ministries.

The Juvenile Act is most progressive law of India, but all its good intentions are defeated by the sorry state of affairs of juvenile correction homes.

The purpose of sending juveniles to special homes is that they can learn new skills, resocialise, and come out as better reformed persons. However, these kind of activities never happen, even remotely.

A culture of violence greets the juveniles at the correction homes. The staff abuse and assault children. Older children are part of violence against younger ones. The correction home employees sometimes encourage groupism to keep the violence in check. Sodomy is a daily nightmare of the children.

Drug abuse is rampant in juvenile homes. In Delhi home, where the juvinile accused of December rape case will be lodged, the drug addiction rate is as high as 70 per cent.

Drugs are available in the observation home across the wall. Boys pay the private security guards to obtain their drugs or act as drug mules for peddlers outside.

If nothing is available, they sniff on eraser fluid.

In Delhi's largest correctional home, the boys sleep on the floor in dormitories and spend most of their time locked indoors. The food quality is poor.

The standards of care for the juveniles are provided under the Juvenile Act. They include daily routine, diet, medical care, education and vocational training, but these are rarely implemented.

With such horror and apathy, no juvenile can come out these home as a reformed adult. It makes them a hardened criminal or a sociopath. A purpose is lost and a person is lost to the society.

What did Verma panel say

Terming the Juvenile Justice Act as a "total failure", the Justice JS Verma panel on crimes against women and anti-rape law said in the absence of requisite infrastructure and the right environment to reform delinquents in juvenile homes, reducing the age of juvenile from 18 to 16 won't serve any purpose.

"Our jails do not have reformatory and rehabilitation policies... We, therefore, breed more criminals including juveniles in our prisons and reformatory system by ghettoing them in juvenile homes," the report said.

On the abysmal functioning of juvenile homes, Justice Verma said, "they are being run in a most pathetic way and those who run the homes are complicit in the happening of worst kind of things that should not happen".

Justifying its recommendation of not reducing the age, the panel said if a 16-year-old is sent to life imprisonment he would be released in the mid-30s. "There is little assurance that the convict will emerge a reformed person who will not commit the same crime" the report said.

OneIndia News

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