Delhi Gang Rape Case: Should the Age of Juveniles be Reduced?

In wake of the recent Delhi gang rape case in which one of the accused is seventeen years old, a new debate has emerged on whether the age of juveniles should be reduced. The shocking part is that it was the so called juvenile who was the most brutal of them all and had allegedly raped the victim twice. Given his age, the juvenile will be tried as per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000. A bone examination is being carried out on the juvenile and if he is indeed seventeen he will be tried by a juvenile court and if convicted, will only receive imprisonment for three years, which is nothing considering the brutality of the crime committed by him.
This brings us to the question on whether the age of juveniles should be brought down to sixteen, from the current eighteen? The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was put in place to deal with offences committed by juveniles. A juvenile is a boy less than sixteen years and a girl less than eighteen years. In the year 2000 the age of male juveniles was brought up to eighteen. The effect of this act was so immense that hundreds of trials were transferred to juvenile courts and with intervention from various high courts from across the country, many juveniles were set free of bail.
This was done with an objective to give young children who had gone astray to mend their ways and rehabilitate themselves back in society and become responsible citizens, since it is believed that if sent to jail juveniles may turn into hardened criminals with no sense of regret or sorrow.
Juvenile courts operate in a manner which is different from normal laws which apply to adults. This act was created so as to protect the needs and human rights of children. But the question which arises now is what about cases like the recent Delhi gang rape where the juvenile was extremely brutal and had no value for human life and dignity?
There are many suggestions on what should be done with juveniles and the age of juveniles and what many lawyers suggest is that the parliament should reduce the age of a juvenile from the current eighteen years and in cases of heinous crimes like the recent gang rape in Delhi, what should be looked at is not a minimum age, but the criminal mindset and the intention of causing harm and committing an offence of the accused.
The juvenile accused in the Delhi gang rape case is seventeen and a half and it is hard to see how a criminal like him can reform himself and become a better person in the next few months until he becomes an adult. It is only a mater of technicality in this case and it is high time laws are changed and amended so that society can be safe from such dangerous elements.
- By Maryann Taylor