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Millennium Post

Where crime is without fear

There needs to be more debate on the discourse on juvenile crime and consequent punishment. The Supreme Court’s notice to the government over its views on the Juvenile Justice (Care and protection of Children) Act that bans prosecution of those aged 16-18 years in cases of heinous crimes, is, undoubtedly, a measure to take cognisance of the rising adolescent crime graph in the national scene. Juvenile delinquency has always been a pressing problem, but over the years, because of myriad issues such as unchecked urbnaisation, labour migration from the villages to the cities and exponential growth of the television media, the matter has indeed assumed an enormous scale. Several surveys and research studies have effectively demonstrated the sustained rise in juvenile crimes across the country, particularly so in the nodal metropolitan cities that experience constant influx of daily wage labourers from rural regions. In fact, the Juvenile Justice Act, that proscribes trying of the 16-18 year olds in adult courts, has been painting the highly divergent group in broad brush strokes, devoid of nuances needed to understand how the crime rate has been escalating over the past decade. Hence, in this light, the Supreme Court’s notice to the central government to give its suggestions on the legislation that protects these ‘near adults’ from the rigours of punishment despite the marked increase in delinquency, is not uncalled for, or even ill-timed.

Given the depravity of the 16 December gang rape in Delhi than led to the eventual death of the 23-year-old paramedical student, it is natural that the judiciary and the legislature will take a hard look on the existing laws and assess how adolescent crimes are witnessing a steep rise at present. That said, it is equally important not to lose sight of the fact that the Juvenile Justice Act is essentially based on a positive premise that safeguards the rights of children and adolescents, given their limited level of maturity. Whether the government and the legal authorities will be able to present a case challenging that entrenched notion, especially because of the early overexposure to complex urban realities and the mass media, is a different matter, since more punitive approach will serve less than holistic development.
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