Age of unreason for juvenile criminal: Its ethical dimension
Age of unreason for juvenile criminal ,Its ethical dimension ,Rape and murder is a common type of violence committed by men against women. The adult accused are punishable with capital punishment, life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment with fine for a recommended period as per law. But the punishment against juvenile criminal involving in such type of heinous crimes is much lesser than adult criminal as per juvenile justice law. This discrepancy of punishments against the same type of crime of equal gravity created dissatisfactions among a major section of people and came on focus in public record since committing rape and murder of a 23 year old girl (popularly known as Nibhaya case) on the night of 16th December, 2012. In this case, one juvenile was the main accused. On the question of safety of women in modern democratic India today, the “Nirbhaya” gang rape case rightly raised grave concern of masses. Thousands of women and men especially women came out on the streets of Delhi, Mumbai and several other cities to condemn the heinous crime against women and demanded change in law to make the punishment harsher than what it is.
The present law which govern the juveniles who are in conflict with law and childrens who are in need of care and protection is called juvenile justice (care and protection of children) Act 2000. This law is in conformity with the U.N. standard minimum rules for administration of juvenile justice. Now the question arises, whether these rules will help in controlling and preventing serious type of crimes like rape, murder, decoity etc. committed by juveniles. The plea for prosecution of the juvenile accused in the December, 16, 2012 ganagrape case alongwith five other adult accused was defeated in the Juvenile justice Board (JJB). If the concept of juvenile criminality and their acquittal from punishment is in continuation without considering the gravity of the offence, the trend of increasing the crime rates in the society as a whole will be petrified, Every criminal irrespective of position and power must be treated equally as per Rule of Law. One can easily assess the intensity and dimension of criminality through news media that the offences of rape and murder are increasing in cities and towns.
Under the juvenile justice Act the maximum sentence for any crime committed by a juvenile is three years in a reform home. The hardcore juvenile who was convicted in the 16th December, 2012 ganprape case was released on December 20, 2015 as per provision of juvenile justice Act, 2000 honouring the verdict of the juvenile justice board in New Delhi on August 31, 2013. The Delhi Commission for women (DCW) on 20th December last wrote to the juvenile justice board (JJB) requesting it not to go ahead with the release of the teen convict in the Nirbhaya gangrape case pending the hearing of a petition in the Apex Court. The DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal had filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the supreme court late on 19th December against the release of the juvenile convict. The supreme court has scheduled the SLP for hearing on 21st December. Hence the case was sub-judice on the day, a division Bench of the Delhi High Court said, the convict could not be kept at the observation home beyond December 20.
The Central Govt. also opposed release of juvenile offender at this stage for which the central Government presented its position before the honourable Delhi High Court, said Rijiju, the Union Minister of State. The Supreme Court on 21st December rejected the plea, making it clear that it could not ask for further detention of the convict without a clear legislative sanction. Thereafter on Tuesday (22nd December), Parliament passed the juvenile justice Bill moved by Maneka Gandhi, Minister for women and Child Development for bringing down the age of responsibility for juvenile offenders. The bill provides for trial of those between 16 and 18 years of age as adults for heinous offences.
The Minister of women and child Development stated that articles 39(e) and (f), 45 and 47 of the constitution made the state responsible for ensuring that all needs of children were met and their basic human rights were protected. The 2015 bill of juvenile justice (care and protection of children) seeks to replace the juvenile justice Act, 2000 which was amended in 2006 and 2011. This bill exhorted to reduce the age of juvenile criminal for trial as adult from 16 to 18 years in case of committing heinous crime by keeping silent on the U.N. convention, 1990 which mandated the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) under section 16 (1) and 19 (3). The Government justified the reduction in MACR on the plea that other countries like England and Australia, where it is 10 years, in Argentina it is 16 years and in France, it is 13 years.
During the debate in the Raiya Sabha, Maneka Gandhi said the juvenile justice Board would decide whether a child, above 16 and below 18, who committed a heinous crime did it with an adult mind or a childish mind. Lot of arguments for and against the Bill was going in during the debate in the Parliament. The psychological factors and court’s decisions on such cases were also brought to the notice of the parliamentarians while arguing on the Bill.
Research in development psychology, according to experts, explains the difference in cognitive capacity and psychological maturity between children including adolescents and adults which has an impact on decision making in anti-social situations. Both in Salil-Bali-Vs-Union of India (2013) and in Dr Subramanina Swamy – vs – Raju (2014) the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the juvenile justice act 2000 in so far as it allowed all children in conflict with the law to be dealt with under the beneficial juvenile justice system irrespective of the gravity of the offence. The women and child development ministry and other supporting proponents of the new amendment, the juvenile justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015 Argue that juvenile crime has increased exponentially.
In the context of unprecedented mass protests both at the time of 16th December 2012 bestial grand-rape in Delhi and at the time of releasing the juvenile accused on 21-01-2016 the question that arises is ‘why is our society producing more and more rapists in recent decades? And ‘why women’s rights to-day with violence alarmingly going up? There has been an estimated 50 million missing girls in India during the past century due to mainly to female infanticide and foeticide (The cuardian, U.K. 2011 ‘worst place in the world for women: India’, June 15, 2011).
The National crime records Bureau (NCRB) reported 10,068 rape cases in 1990 which rise to 24,206 cases in 2011. Rape cases marked a stunning rise by 873 percent during 1971-2011. New Delhi itself accounted for 25 percent of the total cases (violent economic ‘reforms’ and the growing violence against women by V. Shiva, 2013. The NCRB data used to justify the new law bringing down the age of responsibility for criminal action are open to interpretation. At the time of argument for and against reducing the age of juvenile committing heinous crime to a new category 16-18 some experts in the field viewed that a reading of the NCRB data cannot guide any policy on dealing with juvenile crime, because it was based on the number of first information reports (FIRs) registered and not on the number of cases proven in courts of law.
Under the diversified sphere of circumstances prevailed, passing of the juvenile justice (care and protection of Children) Act, 2015 is justified considering the social changes in respect of sordid criminalities. Unlimited opportunities for juvenile criminals of the age group of 16-18 created a disastrous environment.