Monday, June 17, 2024

Calls for tougher stance on juvenile offenders sparks rights debate

In the aftermath of the recent killing of a 17-year-old in northeast Delhi’s Welcome area by a minor boy, a groundswell of support has emerged for a shift in the approach to juvenile justice.

Advocates argue that for crimes of extreme brutality, the current legal system’s emphasis on rehabilitation over punishment is inadequate, pushing for juveniles to be tried as adults in certain cases.

Proponents of trying juveniles as adults contend that the severity and nature of certain crimes demand a response that goes beyond the rehabilitative measures typically offered by the juvenile justice system.

Lawyers argue that juveniles who commit heinous acts should face the full weight of the legal consequences, regardless of their age, as this approach may better serve justice and act as a deterrent for others.

“According to Section 15 of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act, 2015), juveniles charged with heinous crimes and who are between the ages of 16 to 18 years can be tried as adults,” says Supreme Court lawyer Vineet Jindal.

Legal experts supporting this perspective often emphasise the principle of accountability, asserting that juveniles who commit violent or egregious offences should be held responsible for their actions in a manner that aligns with the gravity of the crime.

They argue that trying juveniles as adults provides a more proportional response to the harm caused and sends a clear message about societal intolerance for such acts.

“In cases of heinous crimes, where the gravity of the offence surpasses a certain threshold, the legal framework mandates a minimum penalty of seven years imprisonment under existing laws. The severity of such crimes often necessitates a careful evaluation of the individuals involved, particularly in instances where the accused is a juvenile.

“Upon scrutinising the proceedings of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), the Supreme Court identified procedural lapses. Consequently, theApex Court delegated the responsibility to the JJB to determine whether the juvenile offender required psychological evaluation, a crucial consideration at this juncture in legal proceedings.

“Following a comprehensive reassessment, the JJB, exercising its discretion, issued an order directing the treatment of the accused juvenile as an adult. This decision reflects a departure from the standard juvenile justice procedures, highlighting the unique circumstances and complexities surrounding the case,” says Jindal.

In September 2017, a Class 2 student at a prominent school in Gurugram was found murdered inside the school washroom. The accused was a 16-year-old student at the time of committing the offence and he is treated as an adult.

It seems that public opinion is shifting in favour of a tougher stance on juvenile offenders in cases involving extreme violence. The sentiment is fueled by concerns about public safety and the belief that traditional rehabilitative measures may not be sufficient to address the potential threat posed by individuals who commit such severe crimes.

However, critics of trying juveniles as adults argue that young offenders, by virtue of their age, may lack the cognitive development and maturity to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions.

“Abandoning the rehabilitative approach altogether, emphasising the importance of addressing the root causes of criminal behaviour in young individuals is important and they should be treated as minor. To find the root behind such steps by the minor is important,” said Delhi based lawyer Siddharth Malkania.

In November, a 17-year-old boy was brutally stabbed over 70 times during a street robbery in Delhi.

Days after the accused was nabbed, disturbing visuals emerged, depicting him dancing callously over the body of his victim, seemingly “celebrating” the horrific crime.

CCTV footage captured the assailant dragging the victim into a narrow lane, repeatedly stabbing him to ensure his demise, and concluding with a macabre dance over the body.

The incident occurred at Janta Mazdoor Colony in Welcome area, and the motive behind the murder was robbery.

The victim was choked, stabbed multiple times, and robbed of Rs 350.

(Shekhar Singh can be reached at shekhar.s@ians.in)

20231202170601

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