All those who have been demanding the continued incarceration of the juvenile offender in the gangrape and murder of Jyoti Singh are within their rights to seek justice for the victim and her family. Their apprehension that the juvenile once set free might be a threat to society is justified too. Yet there are times when public emotion and the law fail to find a point of convergence. In such cases the latter must prevail. Sometimes, a flawed narrative gains precedence and goes on dictating the public sentiment.
This perhaps has been the case with the narrative in the case of the juvenile. According to the description widely circulated in the media, this youth, who is expected to walk free on Sunday (unless his release is delayed because of the Supreme Court hearing slated for Monday), was the most vicious among the six who raped and brutalised the 23-year-old para-medical student that dark night. According to most narratives in the media, then and now, he first raped the girl and then inserted an iron rod into her body before pulling out the innards with his bare hands.
Much of the emotional anger against his release is predicated on the belief that this juvenile was the most bestial of the lot and his bestiality stood out over and above that of the rest. But facts speak otherwise. There is no mention of his beast-like behaviour in any of the records that matter in the court of law – the original FIR, the police chargesheet, testimony of both the girl and her male friend and the records of the Juvenile Justice Board. Firstpost is in possession of copies of these.
So the question arises…Was the juvenile the ‘most brutal’?
The answer lies in the confidential order of the Juvenile Justice Board, the statutory body that deals with matters concerning children in conflict with law. Here’s what the order, in the possession of Firstpost, says: “It is true that the juvenile has been found to be involved in the present case, but there is no evidence on record to show that he was the most brutal or he had caused the maximum damage."
Contrary to reports in the media, the Board in its confidential order on 31 August 2013 has recorded that among the six persons in the bus, two had engaged in the most barbaric behaviour– the prime accused Ram Singh, who allegedly committed suicide inside his cell in Tihar Jail, and his co-accused Akshaya Kumar Singh alias Thakur.
The co-accused – who along with others, excluding the juvenile, has now been sentenced to death by the Delhi High Court – said in his confession, which is also part of the 33-page chargesheet with annexures running into several hundred pages, that Ram Singh brutally assaulted the victim with a rod, resulting in an injury that led to her death within a fortnight.
Even the signed statements given by the victim and her companion do not suggest that the juvenile was the ‘most brutal’. In her first statement made before an executive magistrate on 21 December, five days after the incident, she revealed that all the six assailants, including the juvenile, had taken turns to rape her and inflict injuries.
She reiterated the same in her second statement that was recorded on 26 December 2012, when her medical condition had further deteriorated and she could answer questions only in writing or by way of gestures, that all the six accused had raped and brutalised her with the iron rod. There was no indication that the juvenile was any worse than the others.
The statement of the victim’s friend made before a judicial magistrate on 19 December 2012 was more precise. According to him, Ram Singh and Akshaya had taken the victim to the rear seat of the bus. At that time, he was in the grip of the juvenile and the other three accused.
Not only did the Board say he was not the most brutal, but went as far as to say that the minor himself had been “brutalised”.
“...there has been a lot of media publicity against the juvenile in the present case and he has been repeatedly called the most brutal of the lot (six accused, including the minor boy). The objective of having a separate legislation pertaining to juveniles gets defeated where they are themselves brutalised by being called ‘most brutal’ etc.,” the Board stated in its order.
The juvenile was charged under various provisions of the IPC dealing with gang-rape, murder, kidnapping, unnatural offences, attempt to murder, dacoity, destruction of evidence and conspiracy. The charges of robbery, wrongful confinement and destruction of evidence had also been framed against him in another case of robbing a vegetable seller prior boarding the bus.
The board cleared him of charges under sections 307/396/397 IPC but found that he had committed the offence of hatching criminal conspiracy.
“...there is nothing to show that the murder was committed in committing the dacoity. Further, it is settled law that for Section 397 IPC (dacoity, with attempt to cause death) to be attracted, the offender should have actually caused grievous hurt or used a deadly weapon or attempted to cause death or grievous hurt and one person cannot be vicariously liable for the acts of the co-accused. PW6 (prime witness 6, Jyoti Singh’s friend) had stated about all six beating him with iron rod but it cannot be said to be definitively established that the juvenile while committing dacoity had used any deadly weapon or caused grievous hurt or attempted to cause grievous hurt. There is also nothing to establish the offence of attempt to murder (of Jyoti's friend), though the murder of the prosecutrix (Jyoti Singh) stands established. In these circumstances, the juvenile is acquitted for the offenses under sections 307/396/397 IPC but is found to have committed the offenses under Section 120 B IPC (criminal conspiracy) read with sections 302 (murder) / 342 (wrongful confinement) / 364 (Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) / 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) / 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage, etc.) / 367 (kidnapping or abducting in order to subject person to grievous hurt, slavery, etc.) / 376(2)(g) (committing gang-rape) / 377 (unnatural offences) / 395 (dacoity) / 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) / 34 (criminal acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) IPC,” said the judgement.
Yes, hard as it is to swallow, the Juvenile Justice Board has said that far from being the most brutal, the juvenile has himself been ‘brutalised’ by his depiction in popular imagination as the most brutal of all. Does it detract from the demand for a law that subjects juveniles to adult criminal justice law systems in the future? Absolutely not. It just places facts on the table.
The juvenile is all set to walk free. The release order form was completed the day when he was shifted out correctional home to an undisclosed location. The final signing is now mere a legal procedure. His criminal record has been expunged and sources say his identity will still not be revealed in accordance with the Section 21 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, which speaks of maintaining confidentiality.
Earlier as well, the High Court of Delhi in 'X Minor through father Natural Guardian Vs. State and Others in Crl. Rev. P.No. 356/2011', which was decided on 17 April 2012 emphasised the need to maintain complete confidentiality in respect of matters of juveniles.
Meanwhile, the Delhi gangrape victim's parents, who are protesting against the juvenile's release and will lead a march near India Gate this afternoon, told CNN-IBN, "I am still hopeful that something will happen and he will not be released. We have to fight against injustice. I am fighting to retain juvenile in jail."
But law experts say the release order cannot be withdrawn in the wake of the petition filed by Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Chairperson Swati Maliwal in the Supreme Court against the release.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Rebecca Mammen John told Firstpost, "It is not possible at all. Her (DCW chairperson) petition is completely against the letter and spirit of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. Now, she will have to convince the superior court that she is right. But to my mind, there is no justification of stopping the release of the young boy."
Updated Date: Dec 21, 2015 13:40:31 IST