New Delhi: The 16 December gangrape-cum-murder case allegedly involving a minor accused is gruesome but such incident is an "aberration rather than rule", the Supreme Court today said.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said the number of crimes committed by juveniles is about two percent of the country's crime rate and favoured the protection given to minors involved in crime in order to rehabilitate and re-integrate them into mainstream society.
"There is little doubt that the incident, which occurred on the night of 16th December, 2012, was not only gruesome, but almost maniacal in its content, wherein one juvenile, whose role is yet to be established, was involved, but such an incident, in comparison to the vast number of crimes occurring in India, makes it an aberration rather than the Rule."
"If what has come out from the reports of the Crimes Record Bureau, is true, then the number of crimes committed by juveniles comes to about two percent of the country's crime rate," the bench said.
The bench said there is misunderstanding among the people who believe that a juvenile is allowed to go free after attaining the age of eighteen years.
It said that under present law even if a juvenile attains the age of eighteen years within a period of one year, he would still have to undergo a sentence of three years, which could spill beyond the period of one year when he attained majority.
During the hearing, the Centre had also pleaded before the court that 16 December incident should not be allowed to colour the decision taken to treat all persons below the age of 18 years as children.
The apex court refused to lower the age of juvenile from 18 to 16 years saying "the age of eighteen has been fixed on account of the understanding of experts in child psychology and behavioural patterns that till such an age the children in conflict with law could still be redeemed and restored to mainstream society, instead of becoming hardened criminals in future."
"There are, of course, exceptions where a child in the age group of sixteen to eighteen may have developed criminal propensities, which would make it virtually impossible for him/her to be reintegrated into mainstream society.
"But such examples are not of such proportions as to warrant any change in thinking, since it is probably better to try and re-integrate children with criminal propensities into mainstream society rather than to allow them to develop into hardened criminals, which does not augur well for the future," the bench said.