Although the juvenile in the Delhi hit-and-run case has been let off on bail, there may be much trouble in store for him. The new Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, which allows for the possibility of minors between the ages of 16 and 18 years to be tried as adults, means that he could face a prison sentence in the case.
The family of the victim, 32-year old Sidharth Sharma, has demanded that the juvenile should not 'get away on a technicality', NDTV has reported. The minor was just days away from turning 18 years old when the incident took place on 4 April, and attained majority on Friday.
Sidharth's sister has said that if the law could not do it (try him as an adult), the Supreme Court should intervene and if the apex can't do so, 'the people should come on the road and demand justice,' as per the NDTV report.
The case has evoked reactions similar, although not on the same scale as after the 16 December gangrape in Delhi. In that case, the juvenile was six months short of 18 years on the date of the crime. The incident had led to a nationwide furore that led, at least in part, to the passing of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
While such instances of minors marginally short of adulthood involved in crime have evoked outrage, there is a flip side as well. Hidden from public view, and largely outside the media spotlight, a large number of juveniles are lodged in prisons across the country. This is despite the fact that the law mandates that the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) needs to conduct regular inspections of jails for adults to check if any children are lodged in them.
As per an AFP report, as many as 2,900 juveniles were found to have been lodged in prisons by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in the year 2014. The report quotes a minor who was put in prison as saying that no prison official bothered to check his age, the magistrate also did not ask him anything, and so he did not get a chance to explain himself.
The minor offender also may have got the benefit of legislative inaction, as a proposed road transport and safety bill has not yet been passed by the union government. The bill proposes stringent penalties which get more severe according to the seriousness of the offence. Among other provisions, it stipulates a Rs one-lakh fine and a minimum of four years in jail for overspeeding, as per a report in Hindustan Times. This, of course, would only come into question in the Delhi hit-and-run case if the Juvenile Justice Board decides that the minor should be tried as an adult.
The incident took place on 4 April when 32-year-old marketing executive Siddharth was trying to cross a road near Ludlow Castle School and the speeding Mercedes hit him.
A case under IPC sections 304 A (causing death by rash or negligent act), 279 (driving on a public way so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life) and 337 (causing hurt by an act which endangers human life) was lodged.
"During the later stage of the investigation, the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which is cognisable and non-bailable in nature, was slapped," a senior police official said.
With inputs from PTI