The Delhi police may challenge the decision by Juvenile Justice Board to declare sixth accused in the horrific gangrape and assault of a 23-year-old woman as a minor and is reportedly seeking legal advice on whether it can challenge the order.
An IBN-Live report said the police say they are seeking legal opinion on the age issue and conducting the trial of the juvenile along with the five other accused in the case. This is being done even as reports claim the minor was the most brutal of the lot, but may get the least penalty based on laws for juveniles.
The Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) yesterday declared the sixth accused in Delhi gangrape case as a juvenile.
In the last hearing on 15 January, the headmaster of the school when the accused was a student and the current headmaster, both appeared before the JJB. They submitted a copy of the school register, the only existing document in support of the age of the accused, which shows him to be a minor as of 16 December, 2012- which is the day of the brutal gangrape in Delhi.
The JJB also recorded the statement of the headmaster.
Juvenile offenders are tried under the Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act, 2000. The Act defines a juvenile as a person who is below 18 years of age. A juvenile offender cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment or capital punishment under the law. For petty crimes, he is sent to an observation home. If found guilty for committing crimes of heinous nature, he can be sent to an institution called the ‘place of safety’ for a maximum period of thee years.
In cases where age documents are inconclusive, a bone test is done to determine age. Medical experts however say that the bone test can only determine age within a two year range.
The Delhi gangrape/murder has started a wide discourse on rape laws. There have been demands to reduce the age of juvenility in the JJ Act from 18 to 16 years. It is said that the current system provides no deterrent to juveniles from committing crimes, and if found guilty, the law treats them leniently as compared to their adult counterparts. Hearing a PIL demanding reduction of the age of juveniles to 16 from 18, under the law, the Delhi High court has also issued notice to the Centre.
The Justice Verma Committee report on amendments to criminal law has, however, rejected the proposal of lowering the age bar for juvenile offenders. The Committee noted that improving the rehabilitation facilities in observation homes rather than reducing the cut- off age for juvenile offenders is the solution.
“We breed more criminal including juveniles in our prisons and reformatory systems by ghettoing them in juvenile homes and protective homes where they are told that the State will protect them but the promise is a fruitless one,” said the committee in its report.