In the Hyderabad gang-rape of a teenaged girl for which six persons have been arrested, the police will push for the five under-18 accused to be tried as adults so that they do not get lighter punishment on account of being juveniles.
This is permitted after a 2015 amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act for those aged 16-18 accused of a "heinous offence", meaning a crime that attracts a minimum of seven years' jail. Hyderabad Police Commissioner CV Anand said the police will seek this in court "to ensure maximum punishment".
Otherwise, a juvenile cannot be sentenced to more than three years in jail.
All five minors in this case are between 16 and 18 years; one of them is barely a month short of 18 years. Three of the minors are linked to powerful politicians.
The Act, however, sets three criteria before a court can decide to treat such accused as adults - mental and physical capacity; ability to understand consequences; and the circumstances of the offence.
The police have said five of the arrested persons were involved in the rape in a car, while one of the minor boys was seen misbehaving with the girl but did not commit rape.
Mr Anand had earlier said that stringent sections of law have been invoked and the punishment could be life imprisonment or even death, provided the minors are also tried as adults.
The girl and her attackers had met at a party at a pub in Hyderabad's upscale Jubilee Hills on May 28. The venue was booked by two minors for a party before schools reopened. They made the booking at Rs 900 to 1,000 per head, and allegedly sold tickets for Rs 1,300 apiece.
The girl was at the party with a friend, who left early; and later met the group that assaulted her the same evening inside a Toyota Innova.
The police recorded her statement in front of a magistrate.
The five accused accused of rape, including four minors, are charged under Sections 376D (gangrape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 366 (abduction) of the Indian Penal Code, besides sections of IT Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. These sections carry 20 years' jail, life imprisonment, or even death penalty.
The sixth accused, who is also a minor, is charged under such sections of the IPC and POCSO Act that he can get up to seven years in jail.