New Delhi: The Supreme Court today issued a notice to the Centre seeking a harsher punishment for the juvenile convict who was sentenced to three years by the Juvenile Justice Board.
The plea in the top court was filed by the father of the Delhi-based paramedical student who was gang-raped by six men, one of them being a juvenile who was six months short of turning 18 when the assault took place, and who was later convicted for three years.
The top court wanted to know the Centre's views on whether a court can decide if a minor accused could be tried as an adult in a regular criminal court in cases of heinous crimes.
Speaking to NDTV, the braveheart's mother said, "The juvenile who committed the heinous crime should be punished on the basis of his crime, not on the basis of how old he is. That's our appeal."
The considerations are already the focus of a proposed Cabinet note that recommends that juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years should be tried on the basis of the magnitude of their crimes in regular criminal courts.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development suggests that the Juvenile Justice Board should decide whether the minor is mature enough to be tried as an adult.
Experts are divided on the issue.
Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research says, "Law can make an exception looking at the nature of the crime. If the crime is heinous, then that can be forwarded by Juvenile Justice Board, which has considered and found it to be a heinous crime. But reducing the age is not going to help."
Child rights activists, however, warn that the clamour for tougher punishment comes with serious consequences.
Enakshi Ganguly, co-director of HAQ at the Centre for Child Rights feels the trend is worrisome. "The timing of this announcement just before elections and close to December 16, the anniversary of the gang-rape, should be noted. Is this being done because government is seriously considering juvenile justice or is it playing into political and media pressures? We can keep changing the law but the infrastructure for dealing with juveniles and the method of delivering justice must be addressed first," she said.
The Justice Verma Commission, set up after the December 16 gang-rape, did not support the lowering the age of juveniles. But in the last one year, juveniles being accused of grave crimes in Delhi and Mumbai have brought the debate back into sharp focus.