What’s wrong with our juvenile justice system?

Hyderabad: “When people make unbearable mistakes, they should be punished. Regardless of their age. They take age as an advantage!”

“I don’t know when they commit such a crime, why should we consider them as minors? Did their parents teach them to rape? They are literally cruel animals that roam in public. They can attack anyone. public.”

“When they are old enough to commit such crimes, they are old enough to be arrested and punished!”

These are the few apprehensions shared by Internet users on Twitter.

There was a lot of anger on Twitter after three minors aged between 16 and 17 were involved in the Jubilee Hills gang rape case. Some people questioned why they were treated as minors and exempted from punishment when they had committed such a heinous crime, while others called for immediate justice by killing them in an encounter.

At this point, it is important to look at the country’s juvenile justice system, why the Juvenile Justice Act contains certain provisions, and where it is flawed.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

After the shocking Nirbhaya case in New Delhi, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (W&CD) had proposed some amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act 2000. Subsequently, the law was amended in 2015 to become the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of the Child) Act. which allowed children between the ages of 16 and 18 to be tried as adults if they were accused of committing a heinous offence.

This amendment was made in the context of the gang rape of a woman inside a bus in Delhi in 2012, resulting in her death – the infamous Nirbhaya case. In the case, one of the offenders was a 17-year-old, which led the W&CD ministry to propose the amendment. The then minister, Maneka Gandhi, cited an increase in cases of offenders in this age group. But child rights activists opposed the amendment. The JS Verma committee set up to recommend amendments also said it was not inclined to lower the age of a minor from 18 to 16. But later, in May 2015, the bill was passed in parliament and the JJ Act of 2015 came into force.

Section 18(3) of the Act states that after a preliminary assessment of the mental and physical capacity of the accused minor (over the age of 16) to commit such an offense as well as his ability to understand the consequences and circumstances of the commission of a heinous crime, the Juvenile Judge Council (composed of psychologists and social workers) can transfer the case to a juvenile court. The child can be sent to a safe place and after the age of 21 he will be transferred to prison.

Dating is not the solution

Lawyer Akhil Ennamsetty explains that in India we follow a reformist justice theory. “The criminal justice system in India follows a reform justice theory where we want the culprits to be reformed. The provisions currently available under the Juvenile Justice Act attempt to understand whether the minor is capable of making decisions It also ensures that they are not suffering all their lives for crimes they committed when they were young,” he says.

“But our society follows a retributive system where it’s eye for eye. That’s why people are asking for encounter killings in the Jubilee Hills case, even after seeing how Disha’s encounters happened,” adds- he.

Lawyer Akhil is convinced that justice has not been done for Disha until today. The encounter killings could have been simply eyewash, he says. When the courts are in place, no one can get justice, he adds.

He also adds that in the Jubilee Hills gang rape case, the wider issue we need to investigate is how the pub allowed young people in. Telangana has a rule prohibiting young people under the age of 18 from entering any pub premises.

Lack of support system, fear and deterrence

Social activist Sunitha Krishnan from Prajwala says it is not the law that is flawed but its implementation. “The law is perfect but what we lack is a support system that meets the psychotherapeutic needs of the accused minor. In fact, for adults too, we have no such provision. The culprit is sent to prison , sentenced to life imprisonment or capital punishment, but that’s it. There is no support system for these people. Besides, the law is powerless,” she said.

She also says that in India, people are not afraid of punishment and deterrence. Citing Western examples, she says: “In the United States and the United Kingdom, the names of sex offenders are registered and alert systems are in place. For example, when an individual is looking for a house, they will be alerted if there are offenders living nearby. In a sense, they are publicly named and shamed. In India, we don’t have that fear of the repercussions of action. If such a system is put in place, people might think twice before committing a crime.

She adds that it is necessary for the system to act in a time-limited way and that as a society we must become 100% intolerant of these crimes and offenders.