Supreme Court quizzes centre on juvenile age

Notice issued after Delhi gang rape victim's father moves court.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre on a plea by the parents of the December 16 Delhi gang rape victim that one of the rapist-killers, who was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed, be tried as an adult.

They had also pleaded that the age of a juvenile accused of a heinous crime be assessed by a criminal court and not the Juvenile Justice Board.

The family wants the law changed. The bench sought the Centre’s views on the question of who will decide the maturity of an offender who is above 16 and below 18 years of age in matters relating to heinous offences.

In accordance with the application moved by the 23-year-old’s family, the SC will decide whether judges should have powers to assess the maturity of the offender.

SC seeks Centre's reply on definition of juvenile

The SC will decide whether judges can take a call on whether a minor should be tried as an adult or a juvenile. Currently, the maximum punishment for a juvenile is three years in a correction home.

The Juvenile Justice Board had given three years in a correctional home as punishment to the juvenile in the December 16 case, the maximum it could.

The teen turned 18 during his trial. The punishment, described by the young woman’s parents as not severe enough given the scale of the crime, has ignited a debate around juvenile laws and whether anyone over the age of 16 should be tried as an adult.

The Supreme Court will next hear the case on January 6; it has asked the government to explain its stand on the petition at that hearing.

Experts believe that in the case of the December 16 victim in particular the law cannot be amended in retrospect, but there is room for amendments for future cases.

“Lowering the age from 18 to 16 in general might not be best thing to do, but in cases of heinous crimes of sexual assault and murder the court can try them in accordance under the CrPC, and not just the Juvenile Justice Act, since there are several other cases wherein juveniles have been booked for pick-pocketing or other crimes of a less serious nature. Therefore, there should be an amendment to categorise the offenders. In the Nirbhaya case, the court will try the offenders in accordance with what the law of the land was at that point in time,” said senior advocate Monika Arora.

( Source : dc )
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