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No minor matter! Verdict on 16 Dec juvenile accused deferred

The Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) on Monday deferred its order on the role of the minor involved in the brutal gang rape of a paramedical student in a moving bus on 16 December till 19 August in view of the Supreme Court direction to not pronounce a verdict in the case till it decides on a petition for interpretation of the term juvenile.

Sources said that the JJB presided over by principal magistrate Geetanjali Goel postponed the verdict for 19 August and also posted for the same date its order on sentence against the juvenile in a case in which he was earlier convicted for robbing a carpenter onboard the bus before allegedly assaulting the girl and her friend on the night of 16 December 2012.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy to inform the JJB to not pronounce its verdict on the juvenile, alleged to have been involved in the brutal gang rape of a paramedical girl on 16 December, till it decides the petition seeking fresh interpretation of the term juvenile. Swamy, in his petition, has said that the mental and intellectual maturity should be considered instead of the age limit of 18 years for such offenders while fixing their culpability.

A bench headed by chief justice P Sathasivam, asking Swamy to inform the JJB on it, had posted the matter for further hearing on 14 August. The court said that the issue raised in the petition needs to be examined along with maintainability of the plea.

Earlier on 25 July, the JJB had deferred the pronouncement of verdict in the case of minor in the gang rape case till 5 August in the light of Swamy's petition in the apex court.

Swamy had submitted in the apex court on 23 July that his plea would become infructuous if the JJB went ahead with pronouncement of verdict on the juvenile in the gang rape case, which was scheduled for 25 July. The court had then asked Swamy to inform JJB about his pending petition in the apex court and accordingly, Swamy had informed the JJB about the direction given by the apex court.

Swamy has said in his petition that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (JJA) provides for a straitjacket interpretation of the term juvenile that a person below the age of 18 years is a minor and it was in violation of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the child (UNCRC) and Beijing Rules on the issue. He said UNCRC and Beijing Rules say the presumption of the age of criminal responsibility be fixed while bearing in mind the mental and intellectual maturity of offender.
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