Opinion » Lead

Updated: September 24, 2013 01:31 IST

Justice cannot follow a tough act

B. B. Pande
Comment (47)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

Equating juveniles with adult criminals is neither scientifically correct nor normatively defensible

The August 31 verdict of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) in the Delhi gang rape case, handing down a bare three-year custodial sentence to the juvenile member, has generated a fresh round of debate on the legality and desirability of juvenile justice itself: why should juveniles above 16 indulging in violent crimes not be treated as adult criminals? Why should juveniles who are privy to a heinous crime not be given the same punishment as others? Why should our juvenile justice law not follow the 1990s American society’s ‘get tough with violent juveniles’ approach? The debate has spilled over to visual and print media (Aparna Viswanathan’s article in The Hindu, September 9, 2013, and scores of letters to the editor) as well as the pending Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court (Dr. Subramanian Swamy Vs. Raju, Member, JJB).

The American model

Our juvenile justice makes no distinction between the age group or the violent or non-violent criminality of the juveniles just like American society till the end of the 1980s, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Stanford v. Kentucky (192 U.S.361 at 395-96 (1989)), strongly endorsed the observation of the Task Force on Sentencing Policy Towards Young Offenders thus: “Youth crime … is not exclusively the offender’s fault; offences by the young represent a failure of family, school and social system, which share responsibility for the development of America’s youth.”

However, in the U.S., things changed dramatically as the 1990s witnessed a shift towards retributive juvenile justice policy. Such a shift was the outcome of a massive rise in the incidence of juvenile offences (the rate of juvenile offending in the U.S. was almost half the total crime rate) as well as extraordinary violence and brutality of juvenile crimes. A substantially large percentage of juvenile crimes related to offences involving confrontation with victims (homicides, forcible rapes, aggravated assaults and robbery) and narcotic crimes. As a strong response, Congress felt compelled to resort to a “get tough” approach, leading to the amendment of the Federal and State juvenile justice laws by introducing transfer proceedings before the court in all cases where a juvenile above 15 years was involved in a violent crime or narcotics crime. The continued spiral of violent juvenile criminality evidenced in several school shooting cases involving juveniles less than 15 years led Congress to further tighten the re-criminalisation noose by leaving transfer or waiver to prosecutorial discretion without due process safeguards for many new kinds of delinquencies, and reducing the juvenile age limit to 14 or 12 years. In many States, the age limit was waived altogether. However, in recent times, under the influence of brain science research, the re-criminalisation trend appears to be abating, as evidenced by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roper v Simmons (2005), which abolished the juvenile death penalty and later in a 2010 ruling in Graham v Florida, which prohibited sentencing juveniles of crimes other than homicide to life without parole.

Therefore, the U.S. re-criminalisation model has hardly any relevance for India where, for a period between 2001 and 2011, the juvenile delinquency rate has ranged between 1.6 to 2.1 per cent of the total crimes (as against half of the total crime rate in the U.S.) and of these only 5 to 8 per cent are violent crimes like murder and rape (as against a substantial percentage of violent crimes in the U.S.).

Brain science insights

There was very little scientific basis for the American re-criminalisation aberration, but it did inspire brain science experts to undertake a scientific exploration of the adolescent brain system and establish that any deviant behaviour is a function of two distinct sets of brain systems, namely, the socio-emotional system and the cognitive control system that involve different regions of the brain which mature along different timetables. Thus competence-related abilities mature by 16, but the capacity relevant to decisions about criminal culpability continues to mature till young adulthood. These findings of the MacArthur Foundation, Washington, are supported by later brain science researchers such as Laurence Steinberg who argues in his paper “Should the Science of Adolescent Brain Development Inform Public Policy?” (Issues in Science and Technology, Spring 2012) thus: “Adolescents should be viewed as inherently less responsible than adults, and should be punished less harshly than adults, even when crimes they are convicted of are identical.”

Therefore, just because the public is angry with juvenile criminals, including the Delhi gang rape juvenile, should we disregard scientific evidence and reverse the long-accepted juvenile justice policy?

In line with U.N. norms

The roots of Indian juvenile justice can be traced to the 1920s when the Indian Jail Committee, 1919-20, for the first time, recommended a distinct and comprehensive handling of child offenders, leading to the enactment of the Children Act in several progressive provinces like Madras, West Bengal and Bombay, in 1920, 1922 and 1924 respectively. Dealing with child offenders through a different and exclusive system of justicing received a fresh and renewed impetus with the passage of the U.N. Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985, and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 — both the instruments are duly ratified by the Government of India. As a sequel to the U.N. Rules of 1985, the first Central law on the subject, the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, was enacted with a view to imparting uniformity and bringing juvenile justice in line with the current international trends. The ratification of CRC 1989 in 1992 and the submission of Action Taken Report led to the enactment of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000.

This new juvenile justice law differed from the earlier laws in three important respects: first, the Juvenile Court had been replaced by a three-member Juvenile Justice Board (a magistrate and two social work members); second, the age of juvenility was raised for the male child from 16 to 18 years, and, third, custodial sentence under Section 15 (1) (g) was to be limited to a maximum of three years. Of the three, the latter two have become very controversial. The age issue was resolved very much under U.N. pressure, because the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in its 23rd Session vide Resolution 26 and 27 (dated 23/02/2000) expressly observed: “Of particular concern to the U.N. Committee is the very low age of criminal responsibility … And possibility of trying boys between 16-18 as adults.” Raising the age to 18 was later supported by brain science scholars like Laurence Steinberg who takes it as “presumptive age of majority,” which is the mean between 15 and 22 years. However, the provisions relating to sentencing, particularly the limitation of three years on custodial sentence, are the weakest link in the juvenile justice law that calls for unmediated reform.

Need for reforms

The juvenile justice system is in operation throughout the country but very little effort has gone into creating the required infrastructure and developing skilled manpower. The J J Act 2000 has expanded the ambit of the law and created an obligation to cater to the adjudicatory and custodial needs of the 16-18 age group, without caring for their special needs. Particularly problematic is the limitation of a maximum period of three years for a custodial sentence. Such a short period is neither justifiable on grounds of deterrence nor adequate for any kind of reform programme. For example, under the U.K. system even for the most brutal crimes a juvenile is tried by a Youth Court, but sentenced at Her Majesty’s pleasure. In Re Rebert Thompson and Jon Venables, in 2000, the House of Lords was required to decide a matter of tariff and Chief Justice Lord Woolf agreed on an eight-year sentence because the main object of juvenile sentencing was to reform and ultimately rehabilitate the juvenile. In the words of Lord Woolf: “In the case of both these young men, the information before me makes it clear that they have done all that is open to them to redeem themselves. While their crime remains horrendous, they are entitled to credit for this.” Therefore, the most urgent reform in the juvenile justice law is to enhance the ranking of custodial sentence and increase its maximum limit, during which meaningful reform programme can be implemented to ensure that the juveniles in conflict with law are really redeemed and society feels it is adequately protected.

(The author is a former Professor of Law and a Member of the Juvenile Justice Drafting Committee and Chairman of the J J Rules 2007 Drafting Committee)

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The helplessness of our entire criminal justice system before juvenile
delinquents of the most diabolical nature was brazenly exposed when
owing to an excessively soft juvenile law, the cruelest of the culprits
in the infamous Delhi gangrape case received a 3-year term inside a
juvenile-home. For a violent vagrant youth who was mature enough to
rape a girl, rupture her private parts with an iron rod and pull out
her intestines like some demon that ultimately resulted in her death,
such kid-glove treatment was a bonus and a reward and an affront to the
victim and her family, if not to the whole society. Treating a
seventeen and half years old youth like a seven and half years old
child, instead of an appropriate punishment is by no means a sound
justice policy. Why should India wait for many more girls to meet the
same fate like Damini before deciding to amend the law?
We cannot forget that in USA, which is also a signatory to UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 juvenile offenders are
still tried in adult courtrooms and receive proportionate punishments.
The US Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons (2005) eliminated the death
penalty for juvenile offenders below 18 years, and in Graham v.
Florida(2010) prohibited mandatory life sentences for all non-homicide
youth offenses. The recent decision in Miller v. Alabama (2012) has
completely forbidden mandatory life-sentence without parole for
juveniles convicted of all offenses, including murder. After Miller
(2012) ruling by the US Supreme Court, young people (below 18 years)
facing life-sentence in prison now can present evidence in court
regarding mitigating factors that might have contributed to their
criminal behavior, such as living environments and level of maturity.
The US law still does not prohibit a juvenile who commits a crime,
whether involving homicide or not, from being kept in prison for life.
Why India should feel guilty in protecting its innocent citizens by
amending its patently faulty criminal justice system?

from:  D.K.Bhatt
Posted on: Sep 26, 2013 at 19:59 IST

Prof. Pande’s razor-sharp argumentative analysis with authoritative
references about the significance of adolescent being treated
differently than the adult, brushing aside the popular furry after the
infamous Delhi gang rape, is an eye-opener for those who are rowing
their boat on the surface of popular (so called) justice leaving the
course of JUSTNESS. We must reconcile with other factors involved in
such issues, as it involves many psychological and social issues apart
from the purpose of the punishment.
The suggestion made by Prof. Pande of reforming the juvenile justice law
to enhance the ranking of custodial sentence and increase its maximum
limit for meaningful reform to ensure that the juveniles in conflict
with law are really redeemed and society also feels adequately protected
is surely the need of hour and hope legislators and policy makers shall
have an ear over such a marvellous opinion from an Academic Giant.

Satyadeep Singh, NLSIU, Bangalore

from:  Satyadeep Singh
Posted on: Sep 25, 2013 at 22:36 IST

A very interesting presentation! Besides a juvenile offender, there are the victim(s), the society, the government, and people who have influence or control over the juvenile. Let us revisit the statement, “… competence-related abilities mature by 16, but the capacity relevant to decisions about criminal culpability continues to mature till young adulthood.” It is highly doubtful if juveniles who are not in the proper care and discipline of parents, guardians, school teachers, and other local influencers but are actually influenced by gangs and other characters of bad repute will ever attain the capacity about criminal culpability. This is clearly evident in the case of corrupt, dishonest, and fraudulent business people and officials. Hence, the juveniles in the extreme cases may be given the harshest punishment with triggers. Extreme punishment will be postponed or reduced if the convicts show positive behavioral changes and actually perform some good deeds in reform schools.

from:  Som Karamchetty
Posted on: Sep 25, 2013 at 04:14 IST

Well the columnist has well argued about the Juvenile Justice Act. In
this regard i would like to raise some quick ques.
(i)Juvenile should be given a chance to reform or not?
(ii)Act are meant to be made to remain for years to come or we should
make it by inspecting case to case?
(iii)How much is the probability a horrendous criminal will reform in a
short period of 3 years?
(iv) What is the age at which one may not be considered juvenile?

Inferring from above raised question i would conclude that of course
everybody should get a chance to reform and act can't be amended for
every incidents and the maximum period of 3 years should be increased
to 5-6 years. As per my view we can have a buffer age group of 16-18
which could be refered to Supreme Court and SC may punish the culprit
under rarest of rare act.

And anyway if we seek to change the law in preview of horrific
incidence of 16.12.2013 it would never be applied to the case because
Criminal law are not applied retrospectively.

from:  Satya
Posted on: Sep 25, 2013 at 01:41 IST

After Damini's case everybody starts talking about what should be the age of juvenile? Scraps it to 16 instead of 18 etc. But these discussions brings no result, because instead of focussing on gravity of crime we are indulging in age factor of juvenile. What happens if this crime was committed by a 14 year old , at that time has we not started discussing about bringing down the juvenile age to 14 years. So, for heinous crime irrespective of age a tough sentence should be pronounced to provide justice for victims and their families.

from:  Anoop Singh
Posted on: Sep 25, 2013 at 00:12 IST

In India there is change in way of thinking and living but to understand the responsibility of his /her remains same therfore the government of India can't declare the 16 as adults

from:  Rahul Meena
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 23:40 IST

Dear sir,
The heinous offence committed by the juvenile in Delhi gangrape is unforgiveable from all perspetives. The court should also take initiative to amend the laws and tighten the noose on juvenile delinquents. The children of age group 14 to 18 are the most aggressive, brutal and cruel to the victim. Given enormous rise in the juvenile crime rate, its high time we should offer deterrant in the form of stringent laws.

from:  Abdullah Mohd. Sharif
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 23:35 IST

In no way the Brain Science research results or lower percentage of
violent juvenile crimes in India lessen the pain and suffering of the
family of the rape victim. It is shocking to note that the juvenile
who exhibited the maximum brutality against the helpless girl leading
to her death in Delhi case, would be a free man in 3 years time. Would
it be justice then if he were to be 18 years and 1 month as on the
date of the offence and had been to be sentenced to death along with 4
other offenders.
It is time to amend the Juvenile Justice Act to incorporate a clause
to sentence the juvenile more severely and harshly if involved in
violent crimes so that punishment must be proportionate the nature of
crime which is the cardinal principle of justice system.

from:  Syed Altaf Hussain
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 22:46 IST

"Therefore, just because the public is angry with juvenile criminals,
including the Delhi gang rape juvenile, should we disregard scientific
evidence and reverse the long-accepted juvenile justice policy? - The
author is a former Professor of Law and a Member of the Juvenile
Justice Drafting Committee and Chairman of the J J Rules 2007 Drafting
I wonder whether these people who make these kind of statements are
human being, even after knowing in detail about the heinous crime
committed by the culprit. if It is not the public angry, will these
demons be punished (even though we do not know whether the sentences
will be carried out or not)May be the author is lucky that his near
and dear are not subjected to such horror. Of late it is a fashion to
argue on behalf of the criminals rather than supporting the society
and its well being.

from:  SPR
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 22:16 IST

3 years sentence is not a punishment, neither we can reform d criminal in such a short period of time. Rather ostensibly we are feeding milk to a snake so that, in return it gives even more poisonous bite. This is something ridiculous about our judiciary system.

from:  Rosalin
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 21:14 IST

All said is fine, but, what licence does a juvenile carry to rape and murder? Why should somebody pay for somebody else's mental depravity? Why should a promising life be wasted to set right the Law of the land? Best solution is to accept scientific research and make use of them in sorting out cases based on intent of crime. One can understand spontaneity in criminal act but what of Rape? It is a premeditated crime and talking of December 16 case the torture undergone by victim is in no means humanly. Society's lack of cohesion and ability to instil good values and morals should not be a reason to commit horrendous crimes such as rapes and murders especially by so called Juveniles. Scientifically how is it proved that a minute after the 18th birthday a person transforms into adult and can understand consequences of criminal act better. I guess it is rather unscientific reasoning.

Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 20:53 IST

The govt could have amended the Juvenile crime Act doing away with age criteria of 18 years especially after the ghastly rape and murder case happened in Delhi.It did not do so while enacting the rape laws recently without any valid reason
. Now terrorists would deploy under 18 boys/girls. for their activities .

from:  K.V.N.Namboodiri
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 20:31 IST

The author is trying to defend the juvenile justice law, without
taking into consideration the gravity of the crime. In the Delhi rape
case, the offenders committed the most horrendous activities. If a
person, whether a juvenile or an adult, has the capacity to commit
such horrendous and gruesome acts, he surely does not deserve to be
treated lightly.
I am not saying that JJL is a nuisance. It is important. But there is
a category of crimes (such as rapes) in which such a law cannot be
applied. A 16-year old child has an adequately rational mind, and if
such a person commits an act as devious as rape, the person needs to
be punished harshly and treated equally as adults, rather than letting
him free in 2 or 3 years. Such a punishment would only aggravate the
number of such cases in our society. People, irrespective of their
age, need to fear the law so that they think twice before committing
ANY crime.

from:  Geet
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 20:00 IST

In case of sexual offences and murders, puberty is reason enough to try
convicts as adults. Period. 17 years 364 days old person escaping a
punishment is a joke of judicial system.

from:  vaibhav
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 19:47 IST

When world is ratifying the aberrations made in their criminal laws, author suggests
that india should stick with the outdated acts.Assuming that juvenile in conflict with
law are small fraction of the larger criminals, still the gravity of the crimes committed
by them is increasing day by day.Even in recent rape case of Mumbai jiurnalist , one of
the culprits is being termed as juvenile.we need strong law to curb this menace of
rape.I would concede to the writer that we can impose certain restriction e.g. no
capital punishment for juveniles, but after age of 16 they should tried as par with
adults if the intensity of crime committed in severe.

from:  Shivraj Gurjar
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 19:32 IST

What if the so called juvenile was one day short of attaining his
adulthood (18 years)at the time of committing the crime?? Of course he
would have been declared a juvenile according to the law. But what if he
was one day older than 18 years, or say he was 18 years old at the time
of crime? Would he punished as and adult? if so then how on earth he
would have attained maturity overnight.. this is some serious issue and
the lawmakers(who are busy amending the constitution for their self
interests) need to amend the juvenile act.

from:  johnson taye
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 19:32 IST

There is a fundamental point here. We cannot talk about crime as a whole. We should segregate it based on severity. For e.g. rape is done by a adult; if a juvenile does it, it suggests that he is physically an adult. Whatever suffering the victim goes through when raped by an adult, she goes through when raped by a juvenile also. Then we should not give him the benefit of doubt. Try him as an adult. Murder is a different thing; people can argue that as a young boy he did not know what he was doing. So let us consider rape as a separate segment of crime.

from:  Raja Nagan
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 19:26 IST

The argument that the percentage of juvenile crimes in India is comparatively smaller than
that of the US is flawed, as it knocks down the well laid principle of 'nipping it in the bud' as a
preventive mechanism against evils of any form in the society. If we accept that the re-
criminalisation process in the US had to be started because 50 % of the horrendous crimes
were committed by the juveniles, then what message we are sending to the Indian public at
large? Is it the case of the author, that since this reported spine chilling crime of the ' juvenile'
is/ might be an aberration, considering the size of the country and its popularion, we should
wait for the day when in India at least 50% of the rarest of the rare type of crimes must be
committed by the so called juveniles for reviewing our juvenile justice delivery system ? Very
sad to note that a section of the elite society applies the yardstick of percentage and age to
justify letting off dangerous viruses, in this manner.

from:  Shekar
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 19:10 IST

Let us first punish and give bails to women at par with men. There should be no special provisions for women in Criminal Justice systems...
If you have a bias towards Criminal Adult women , why not for non adult children who are driven to crimes.

Author is right !

from:  Rajesh Family Man
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 18:45 IST

Let me commend the author who had done research deep into the juvenile justice system and presented his observations and some conclusions thereon. One also find from our readers of this paper,a numerous valuable suggestions have been put forth. These aspects, it is hoped would receive the immediate attention of all the concerned authorities. In this connection, let me pose a poser. A person or group of persons may conspire intelligently and cleverly and get use of a vulnerable youth say just aged 17 years in committing murder or do terrorist act. Assuming the youth gets caught and he being tried under the existing juvenile system will get a maximum sentence of three years and afterwards let free. The main culprits get away with the dastardly act from the clutches of law. 1 What a mockery of the judicial system ?

from:  T. R. Kothandaraman
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 18:33 IST

I think although scientific results can not be challenged and it is difficult and not justiciable by the goverment to decrease the juvinile age limit to 16 years it is very important that we add the clause which gives freedom to the judiciary to work upon their consensus if they are fully justified that the offender although juvinile deserves the harsh punishmanet after looking at his socio-emotional-economic background and the depth of crime.It is also important that goverment starts imparting moral values among its citizens specially the younger ones on a wider scale without being dependent for it to their paraents/pals as our society is so peculiar with lot of diversities.

from:  sandesh
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 18:18 IST

What's your take if Ajmal Kasab was able to prove he is 17.5 yo?

from:  benaam
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 18:11 IST

Generalising laws for everyone in a category based on broad
parameters cannot be the right way. There should be a case specific
approach if justice is to prevail. And yes, judges should not
forget keep themselves in the place of the victims to feel the
intensity of wrongs done to them!!

from:  Shiva Tripathi
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 18:03 IST

The problem with we Indians is, we are too emotional. People have started talking about juvenile justice only after Delhi case. Its very true, juvenile law should be changed in India, its long overdue. But why the Government is not doing it? If I am not wrong they tried to reduce it to 16 years a few months back and it was opposed by the opposition parties, and it was left to rest! Look beyond Delhi case, changing the juvenile law is required, but it has its own plus and minus too when we look at it, especially from the point of Indian culture and society. It may be right for the Delhi case, but in some other cases it may boomerang at the aggrieved parties, especially with the system we have in place, full of corruption and politics. Remember reducing the age to 15 or 16 will apply to a girl child too! God only knows, how our system and Politicians will use it to their advantage.

from:  Jaya Prakash
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 16:37 IST

The Criminal responsibility of juveniles:it is not the Offender`s age
BUT his Strength Of Understanding and Judgement that Establishes The
True Capacity To Do Evil or Contract Guilt. ...For me in Damini case it
should have been BETTER if Court/s were permitted to ASSESS his OFFENCE,
its gravity etc.In Rape Murder Bomb Blast cases,Terror Strikes Fidayeen
Attacks cases AGE SHOULD never be the SOLE criteria.

from:  amarendra d
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 16:31 IST

The article is thought provoking. Irrespective of the age, a crime is a crime. The author cites reformative action based on the conditions prevailing in US and the punishment there. Why does he not cite the other countries where harsher punishments for similar conditions are enforced? In the Indian context the rate of crimes like rapes of infants, young girls and older women have been increasing over a period.Despite the harsher laws recently introduced,there is no abatement of such crimes; there is only increase.Juveniles of 12 years have been committing such crimes. It is not as though they are not aware of the stigma attached to such acts.The entire Indian society agrees that it violates the body of a helpless victim. Yet the males, whether juvenile or the older ones is in the act for fun and pleasure irrespective of consequences and the law.The males have been blaming provocative dressing of the girls including toddlers.Death penalty is therefore justified.I support death penalty.

from:  s. narayan
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 16:25 IST

While going behind academic debates, argument and looking for "scientific evidence" one often forgets the fundamentals;
the juvenile should be given a chance to "reform." However, in the present case, the juvenile in question was the most violent of all--the mere description of which would even shake hardcore criminals--plucking the girls intestine by hand. Also, how can one justify the "cut-off" day when one turns adult from juvenile.

Needless to say, the adolescents of the 21st century india live in a different world from those 20 years back, let alone when these laws were envisaged.
Leaving such persons, who have been repeat offender, another chance is only allowing even more juveniles coming under this person's influence to turn rotten man. In fact, this is a reality today. Those who don't believe in it are living under illusion. We definitely don't want India to become another Somalia or Nigeria. Children are future only if they grow like a human being and not like animals.

from:  Chennaswami
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 15:32 IST

Forgiving a criminal just because he is a juvenile is like postponding a inevitable horrendous crime in the near future.

from:  vibhav kumar giri
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 15:23 IST

Justice to the victim can not behold back just because the culprit was
not above 18. The adolescence is fragile and decision making can not be
completely justify in such under-developed mind but on the other hand
such children should be reasonably convicted with the level of
crime(increasing the maximum year of sentencing) and not merely on the
fact of their tender age. As well, the government should keep a close
eye after they leave juvenile care

from:  simran chawla
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 15:20 IST

Indeed a tough decision to be made- who is a juvenile - age alone does
not qualify as pointed out by a comment - today children are exposed
to all types of "knowledge" - right and wrong - thro media network
cinema and tech gadgets which tend to shape their attitudes and
manners MORE than parental guidance, that becomes secondary !
Therefore, juvenile involved in crime must be evaluated properly - why
he indulged in such dastardly act - and given punishment as adults -
NO need for mercy in cases of rape murder etc; petty thefts for
personal gain or ambition fulfillment different. Children have to be
groomed when young by parents and teachers suitably with values. Yes
easily said than practically possible - but MUST try our best.

from:  Radhik Hairam
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 14:58 IST

The problem with spates of articles coming out these days is they only
talk about reforming convicts.Do we ever talk about how to reform or
counsel lives of those affected by crime.They always give perspectives
of other countries but not what has been happening in India. Does he
realize that there is societal difference in US and UK other than the
fact that we are trying to fake western culture. There has been a 143% the number of rapes other than 87% murder and while
there has been a whopping 500% the number of kidnappings of
women and girls by juveniles. Also now days teens mature at an early
age thanks to media and internet. Does to talk about how to fix it. He
talks about reforming Juvenile home in just one or two sentences. And
he does not talk about change in society's attitude or role of civil
society other than just candlelight march. I think there is exactly
where the problem lies.Instead of trying to fix an end try to fix a
proper process first.

from:  Sudama
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 14:53 IST

The author has compiled scientific research as well as model juvenile
laws of US and UK very well but my opinion is that juvenile justice law
should vary from case to case keeping circumstances as well as history
of the offender.

from:  Dr. Sunil Kumar
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 14:23 IST

The basic fact that kids are not matured enough to distinguish between right and wrong is
accepted. Where the problem arises is when the wrong committed is horrendous and the
individual committing the crime is on the threshold of becoming an adult and is fully aware of
the crime he is committing. However, the criminal culpability could be differentiated as a) a conscious intent to grievous hurt like in case of a rape/murder or b) fun or curiosity as in a case of driving a car and meeting with an accident; in the former the criminal intent is in evidence The research findings that competence related abilities mature by the age of 16 but capacity relevant to decisions to criminal culpability continue to mature till young adulthood is debatable. Why then would adult laws be applicable across the turnstile of age 18 if there is such a big transition time gap for maturing. The Courts should use
discretion to commit the juvenile to adult laws; provide amendments, if necessary.

from:  M.R.Sampath
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 12:51 IST

The author makes a compelling read. The anger in the public at large is highly justified, yet, law has its own interpretations to follow. However, law also need to understand that if a juvenile whose 18th birthday is on say 20th January, commits a crime on 19th vis-a-vis on say 21st, in two days what significant changes would happen that would make the juvenile "adult" to be punished like an adult? Is two days sufficient or are two years sufficient? Moreover, given the change in the society the earlier definition of juvenile may be irrelevant. They are exposed to a lot more of "realities" than perhaps those generations when these laws were written.

from:  Joyug
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 12:49 IST

Imagine the atrocity which happened with the Delhi girl. Think, if your
sister or daughter had suffered it. Will you say the same about a
juvenile offender?
Do we have the infrastructure to give them a holistic rehabilitation for
a longer time?

My answer to both is "NO"

from:  Abhishek Pandey
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 12:41 IST

true juvenile must be handle with different law, but must also depends
upon the intensity of crime committed by the same and accordingly they
must be held accountable for the same.

from:  anurag singh
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 12:28 IST

"When he was 14, Chandler was stealing cars and was arrested 20 times
while he was a juvenile." This is about Oba Chandler an American murderer who was later executed at age 65 yrs by lethal injection for the June 1989 triple murders of Joan Rogers and her two daughters.
What one has to understand that not all juveniles do acts of criminal nature - whether serious or not. Whatever the reasons - family or friends the fact remains that such juveniles are detrimental to the society until and unless concrete steps are taken.
If the State cannot take the responsibility of monitoring their activities post-juvenile-custody then they should very much be tried as adults in the first place itself depending on seriousness of crime committed.

from:  Rejani
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 11:31 IST

Juvenile punishment is always a dilemma not only in India but around the
world. The law makers should keep one thing in mind with the advancement
of internet, technology and a massive following of free social media the
present juveniles has an added advantage compared to the past
generation. Implying to the above statement the age of a juvenile should
be reduced from 18 to 15.

from:  sandeep kumar
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 10:35 IST

How funny it seems, for enjoying sex they behave like Adults, for doing crimes they act like Adults but for Punishment must be treated like a Juvenile, Why???? Atleast see the laws regarding this of other Nations also and get their Ethics behind that and then think about our rules, where we stand????

from:  Saurabh Singh
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 10:32 IST

I agree with the concept that Juveniles cant be equated with adults and cant be punished in
the same manner. However the author has not given any scientific basis on why a person
aged 17 yeas 9 months is treated as juvenile, while another who is 4 months older is treated
as adult. Is there something magical happening in the brain when the clock strikes 12 on the
18th Bday ? In fact the discomfort with the existing system is using purely age as a criteria
for deciding juvenility. What the curative petitions are asking for is to consider multiple factors
to decide whether the accused should be treated as juvenile or adult. If a person is decided as Juvenile, then let JJ act apply and nobody has any problems with that.

from:  Gajamani G
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 08:40 IST

In Delhi gang rape-cum-murder case a minor was involved. He excelled other criminals in inflicting brutality and barbarity on the victim. But he was served only three-year imprisonment which is too light a punishment compared to the intensity of crime. What’s more, in the same case other accused were served death sentence. When released after serving such a short spell of sentence for so inhuman and heinous a crime the minor might emerge as a formidable menace to the society. In Bombay gang rape too a minor is involved who might be let off the hook with light punishment. In a recent rape case as many as five minors have been involved. It may be argued taking advantage of age many minors may indulge in criminal assault on women. At least in murder and rape cases age should not be considered a bar in awarding punishment to the guilty.

from:  U.K.Pal
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 08:33 IST

That's true, Juvenile Justice makes sense only if rehabilitation centres are powerful enough to actually make changes in the attitude of Juveniles, Whether 3 years are sufficient enough completely depends on the structure, and discipline of the programme but we have very few rehabilitation centre in India and the rate of crime is increasing so If Juvenile act is followed the prime responsibility should be a well equipped rehabilitation centre.

from:  Prince Dewangan
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 08:26 IST

An insightful treatment to the issue.But as writer suggests ,reform period should be a sufficient one,what about juveniles who don't mature and commit crimes again!Should they be punished more harshly than those who don't have any prior criminal record?

from:  Nitin
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 08:26 IST

La wand justice is largely a reflections of the times. Same-sex relationships were taboo in the US as well as in India even a couple of decades back. Today, a more permissive approach is taken to such relationships. If therefore society - after debate and discussion - should choose to impose some harsher penalties for crimes committed by so-called juvenile, it should be acceptable. It must at the same time be recognized that a 16 year old today is far far more aware of his world than a 16 year old about fifty years back. There is also now more of "gang culture" where juveniles may beat up people in a gang on a whim rather than on a one-to-one basis. That is how society has evolved - and will keep on evolving. Not all laws are written in stone.

from:  Prosenjit Das Gupta
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 07:13 IST

Juveniles need a certain protection, and hence must be governed by the JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT.. but for heinous crimes such as cold blooded MURDER and RAPE.. considering them immature is a legal escape plan for them.. amendment in JJA is necessary. And at the same time immature juveniles must be REHABILITATED, where there is scope..

from:  Parteek Chugh
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 06:35 IST

The "US Model" you postulate is a gross simplification. Congress cannot mandate that the States follow any particular form of juvenile justice, other than that it be constitutional. The present system in California for determining when a juvenile should be tried as an adult is considerably more complex and sensitive to the youthfulness of the child than your condensation of US policy suggests. Might I suggest an examination of California's actual practices and statutes before dumping the US model? See R. Twiss, Charging a Juvenile as an Adult [in California]: Perhaps the Most Important Decision in the Juvenile Justice System, (2012)

from:  David Salmon
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 03:25 IST

Law has to stipulate a set age to distinguish between juvenilty and adulthood as law cannot be arbitrary and cannot treat individual cases separately with a different set of rules. However, each person attains physical, emotional and mental maturity at different stages in their lives. Therefore their cognitive capabilites cannot be assessed on the basis of a particular age. This is where law as system sometimes fails. Everything and everybody cannot be judged using the same yardstick.

from:  Harikumar.J.S
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 03:13 IST
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