Women from a cross-section of society had mixed reactions to the punishment awarded to the juvenile accused in the December 16 gang-rape case.

Annie Raja, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, said the victim’s family finally got some relief but the three-year sentence for the cruellest of the six accused in the case would not act as a deterrent for the crime he had committed.

She said there is a need for wider consultation on enhancing the punishment for juveniles involved in heinous crimes. “The case of this juvenile accused has provided an opportunity for a debate. He has been meted out a softer sentence,” Ms. Raja said.

She said there had been a delay in awarding the punishment as she had expected the trial to be over within six months.

However, advocate Rebecca M. John is against enhancing punishments for juvenile delinquents involved in heinous crimes. “The law should not be tinkered with on the facts of a particular case”, she said.

Ms. John expressed her satisfaction over the quantum of sentence awarded to the accused, saying that it was in consonance with the law. “We should not be ruled by emotions and the lynch mob mentality. We should learn to respect the laws,” she said.

But National Commission for Women Member Nirmala Samant was in favour of treating a juvenile involved in a heinous crime as an adult. She said that juvenile delinquents between 16 and 18 years of age should be treated as adults if they were charged with committing serious crimes, particularly against women. Stating that it was her personal opinion, Ms. Samant said it was necessary in view of the changing times.

The director of the Centre for Advocacy and Research, Akhila Sivdas, said though the juvenile delinquent has been given the maximum sentence permissible, she is concerned whether his stay at a reform home can transform his conduct. “I am not hopeful that the accused will be reformed during his three-year stay at the reform home in view of the way these homes are run,” she said.

In support of her concerns, she cited a recent incident of children running away from a reform home in the Capital.

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