A juvenile, to start with, is an individual who is still a child, immature, young, and lastly bound to make mistakes. An adult, in India, is a person over 18 years. Thus, 18 years is the legal age, 18 years is the age where a person can be considered to stand up to the things he/she has done, and below that is the age where the same things are named as mistakes. Why? Because such individuals are bound to make mistakes. Here, the age of the person becomes the measuring unit of the same crime committed by two different people. The age of the individual is considered rather than the brutality of the crime committed by him/her. The so-called ‘juvenile’ commits a crime as brutal as a murder or a rape, and is sent to the juvenile court, where the first and foremost thing kept in mind is the fact that the person is a minor and not the nature of the crime committed by the very minor. Why should they be accorded preferential treatment for the very same crime, for which some other person is being sentenced with a much higher degree of punishment? I mean for the victim, it doesn’t matter if the criminal is in between 16 and 18 years of age, the age does not cut down the unwanted brutality that was shown to them. In my opinion, juveniles should be treated as adults if the crimes committed by them are adults. It doesn’t matter if the wrongdoer is 17 ½, if he/she bestows cruelty upon innocent people, they should be held duly accountable for the same.
WHO IS A JUVENILE?
Juvenile is an individual under the age of 18 and above the age of 10, who has not yet attained a certain age to be held responsible for their conduct and cannot be tried as an adult in case of a criminal offence.
HEINOUS AND PETTY CRIMES
Heinous crimes are murder, assault, kidnapping, robbery, rape, and other sexual offences. All of these in India come under heinous crimes. Whereas public drunkenness, pickpocketing, and jaywalking are considered petty crimes.
When we talk about juveniles and their punishments it’s almost impossible to not mention the infamous Nirbhaya case of 2012. Where there were six culprits, one of them being a minor at the time of the incident, we can witness the disability of the system of law in the case as the four of them were, after a lot of struggle, ordered to be hanged till death whereas the minor was sentenced under the juvenile justice act, with the maximum sentence of three years and was sent to a rehabilitation home. He was also given an amount of 10,000 rupees and a sewing machine, for him to have the means to start a new life. And in addition to this, the minor is believed to be one of the most brutal of all the culprits, he was the one to ambush the victim with an iron rod. It’s a shame to see the impaired functionality of the justice system specifically in the said case. In the Shakti mills gang rape case, it was the same story. The same crime was committed by 7 individuals, two of them being minors. The minors again were given sentences that are incompatible with the crime committed.
No matter how old one is, murder or rape are not crimes that are committed without the culprit putting thought into it. It is in no way acceptable that a teenager committing such crimes is allowed to get away with it. We understand that the courts try to safeguard children because it considers children incapable of protecting their rights on their own, but its high time they realize and more importantly set a boundary and some kind of categorization among children who are really in need of help and the ones who twists and turns the provisions to their whims and commit crimes and then have this protective nature towards children as a victim card. The minors who are close to being adults are well within the capacity to understand the consequences of their acts, it is the people between the age group of 16-18 who gets the benefit of the doubt which is ethically wrong.
If nothing then at least we can draw up a line between the kinds of crimes committed by juveniles and those who should be tried as adults for the heinous crimes. Youth who commit such crimes are criminals and their age should not allow them to get away with it and continue on that path. There is the juvenile justice act of 2015, which has recognized that the age group of 16-18 should be tried as adults, which is progress, but still, the punishment for them is not more than 3 years. We need to dedicatedly work on assigning punishments keeping the crimes in mind. The least we can offer the victim is a sheer act of justice. How safe our surroundings would be if the juveniles who have committed dangerous crimes are allowed to go free after a certain period of imprisonment? Will it be safe to leave such individuals unchecked? It is only relevant to ask if the period of three years can reform the criminal and make him/her into somewhat of a normal citizen? Prevention is better than cure; it’s better to act accurately in the first instance itself than to act when the same individual has come up with some other crime. If we do not act accordingly there will be more and more such juveniles, committing crimes we can’t speak out loud about, laughing at the faces of their helpless victims. No one is born a criminal, it’s several circumstances leading up to such things which apply to the juveniles, and giving them a remand home instead of prison can help in maybe reshaping their minds but it is more important to consider that injustice has been done with the victim and that remains a fact. If it’s important to safeguard what little humanity is left in the juveniles, it is equally essential that justice be delivered to their victims and an example is set so that no one can so much as think about committing such atrocities.
Author(s) Name: Avni Kapoor (Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University)