After the news broke out of a ‘minor’ being prime accused in the December 16, 2012 brutal gangrape incident, juvenile delinquency’ became the ‘hot topic’ in almost all primetime shows. Should the bar be set at 18 itself? Or 17? Or 16? This continues to be argued upon with ‘n’ number of statements supporting these instances. Can we really give a knee-jerk argument owing to one particular incident that the age under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 be amended? NCRB reports that there has been a rise in number of crimes committed by ‘juveniles’, many of them being repeat offenders.
The condition in NCR is even worse. What then? It may be concluded that children are achieving puberty hence ‘maturity’ earlier than before from various worldwide reports. It doesn’t indicate a simultaneous rise in criminal activities thereupon, or to put it in simple words, that cannot be held as the reason for rise in criminal tendencies among minors. But yes, what can be said as disturbing is the ‘far too open’ access to ‘things’ which children or anybody shouldn’t have access to with this age of internet.
Internet is undoubtedly the most phenomenal technological innovation that has revolutionized our world. But with absolute freedom as with power crops up the ‘dark side’. In an interaction with some kids, it was revealed that secondary school children talk about the video games which have extremely objectionable content! This actually has a deep influence on kids of this age with bubbling energy. Proper parental watch is needful. Nobody can deny the need for sex education, to know that its not a taboo but a part of life. This is the small part of the larger issue. In Pakistan 7 year old can be tried under criminal charges, in England its 10, and so on. Do we set our laws in accordance with these? We have ratified UN Convention on this regard; which obliges us to set it at age of 18, as it exists now.
Again its good to have a comparative analysis but keeping in mind the socio-economic condition of the countries. Our social profile is different from others. As widely covered by leading media, the background of this ‘particular’ juvenile was very grim with his mentally challenged father and an extremely poor family. One section says crime is a crime and justice has to be imparted to the victim. Agreed. But law cannot be merely about ‘punishment’ but combination of punishment, deterrence and correction.
As Justice Verma Committee too pointed out the shabby state of reformation homes in the country and acute shortage of juvenile cells, to an extent explains the reason for the juveniles turning out to be repeat offenders more often. There has been a rise in cases of child sexual abuse that goes unreported in large number of cases, not to miss out other forms of abuse the children primarily belonging to poor background face. Thus, here an attempt has been made out to uncover various layers that this issue entails and not to jump into any hasty conclusion thereby wanting the decision to be made in an integrative manner.