Juvenile to walk free in Nirbhaya rape case

Nirbhaya Case: Juvenile Old Enough To Rape But Not Old Enough To Hang Proves Why We Need Strict Laws [Opinion]

The Supreme Court of India today upheld the death penalty to the four accused in the Nirbahya gangrape case. Nirbhaya, whose real name is Jyoti Singh, was brutally gangraped in Delhi on the night of December 2016. She died 15 days later in a hospital in Singapore.

There were six accused in the case – Ram Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Kumar, Mukesh, and a Juvenile. Ram Singh was the driver of the bus in which the crime was committed, whereas the juvenile was the cleaner.

Ram Singh allegedly committed suicide while in jail. The minor was released after three years of reformative sentence. It is worth noting that he was just months away from turning 18 when he committed the crime. In that case, he would have faced a full sentence.

In the horrific Nirbhaya rape case, the minor was the most brutal and violent, as reported by One India. However, the Juvenile Justice Act prevents minors from being tried in court under any circumstances.

Nirbhaya's mother after the Supreme Court Verdict
[Image by Altaf Qadri/AP Images]

This minor was released from Juvenile home on December 20, 2015. During his reformative sentence, he was taught to cook, paint, and stitch. After his release, he was kept with an NGO for a few days before being released.

The Juvenile who was reported to show no sign of remorse during his sentence now works as a cook in a roadside Dhaba and is said to be living a decent life. The minor is now 23-years-old and possibly unaware of the development in the case.

According to one of the officials, the accused had turned religious after being admitted to the juvenile home. He even grew a beard and started offering namaz five times a day. In the last year of his sentence, he shared a dormitory with a high court blast accused from Kashmir.

There were fears that he was radicalized and would eventually become a bigger threat to the society. After his release, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had released an alert over his suspected jihadi links. According to the reports, the IB still keeps a close watch on him.

The NGO official said that the minor was worried about being lynched and hence chose to settle in southern India. The official did not reveal any further information fearing the safety of the juvenile. That brings us to the question, why should he be allowed to walk free after committing such a heinous crime?

Notably, the Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill was passed in 2015, so why was the minor released? During a hearing to decide the extension of confinement for the juvenile, the Supreme Court had stated they did not have a legislative mandate, meaning the parliamentarians had failed in their duty. In the absence of a legal provision, the Supreme Court could not have denied the release of the minor.

Even though people were agitated when the juvenile convict was released, it is important to understand that the Supreme Court could not have implemented the bill retrospectively. The amendment required due diligence and should have covered such finer details.

The present bill has reduced the age of children that can be tried as adults to 16 years from current 18 years. What about the 14-year-old murderers and rapists? What if, a 15-year-old commits a crime knowing that he will be free within three years?

Protest march against the Delhi rape case 2012
[Image by Nicky Loh/Getty Images]

The basic premise that children cannot commit crimes is wrong. Yes, it is possible that circumstances can force a child to commit crimes, but how can that argument be used to provide such an apparent loophole for all the minors involved in heinous crimes.

If we consider cases involving juveniles from across the world, we have a clear picture that children can be involved in rapes and murders. In Bolton, a 12-year-old was involved in the rape of two girls, another boy of 12 had raped his teacher in Sunderland, and there are countless similar cases that prove that age no longer remains a factor in such grave crimes.

The Juvenile Justice Act was aimed at helping the impressionable minds to rehabilitate in the society. No doubt, it is important to help the young children overcome their past and help them to get back in the society. However, the problem then arises in determining the severity of the crime.

One of the possible solutions is to prosecute those accused of crimes such as terrorism, rapes and murders as adults. Like some other nations, India too can maintain a registry of sex offenders to ensure that once someone irrespective of juvenile or adults is found guilty of such crimes, they are monitored for life. The Human Rights Watch has objected to such registries.

The law will take years of dedication by our politicians and lawmakers to be able to deal with such complicated situations. Till then the onus remains upon us to teach our children to respect the women in the society and be a law abiding citizens.

[Featured Image Saurabh Das/AP Images]

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