Millennium Post

Adult crimes and little punishment

Rising crime graph and increasing incidences of juvenile delinquency, especially in cases of heinous crimes such as rape and murder, has pushed the government to take note and announce its intentions to clear the proposed amendments to Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act.

Union Minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi herself has been at the forefront of this renewed campaign to shift gear from a reform-based approach to dealing with juvenile criminals towards a penalty-oriented attitude towards them, trying delinquents aged 16-18 in normal courts. Even the National Commission of Women has been up in arms about bringing down the age bar so as to enable penolegal prosecution of juveniles held for gruesome ‘adult’ crimes in regular courts.

While there’s a definitive upward tilt in adolescent delinquency of a sexual nature, particularly in growing urban regions with substantial migrant and slum-dwelling population, we also need to understand the circumstances that produce such young criminals. Chiefly, exposure to crime at an early age, lack of education or even literacy, ghettoed environment and gender/class apartheid often drive the impressionable youths aged under 18 towards committing brutalities that are, in fact, beyond their comprehension. Definition of juvenile – physical or mental – are legal conundrums that have subject to great debate and have been arrived at after much deliberation by human and child rights activists all across the world, and the present JJ Act takes cognisance of that important aspect of determining legal and judicial recourse when dealing with minors.

That said, it is impossible to ignore the empirical imperatives that say more than 50 per cent of brutal crimes against women, such as rape and murder, are being committed by young persons aged 16-18. Given this alarming rise in sexual violence by juveniles, it is important to reconfigure the legal edifice so as to have a two-pronged effect of both lowering the crime graph as well as spreading greater awareness among the adolescents, especially from poor working class backgrounds.

While one of the six convicted in 16 December gang rape was a juvenile, in several other cases, particularly violent and fatal gang-rapes, more juveniles have been found guilty. Hence, simply lowering the age bar cannot counter the rape offensive that is being wielded against women like an epidemic as much as awareness, education and an emphasis on rehabilitation of young minds can achieve. 
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