A lenient juvenile law has increasingly emboldened juveniles to commit heinous crimes and it is for the government to re-examine the law before it is too late in the day, the Supreme Court said in a judgment on Wednesday.
The judgment by a Bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and J.B. Pardiwala ordered a juvenile accused of the brutal gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua to be tried as an adult. The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir had appealed against the State High Court’s affirmation of a trial court order that the accused was a juvenile. There were contradictions in the accused’s birth records. The medical board report had however concluded that the accused was aged between 19 and 23 at the commission of the crime in January 2018 at Rasana village near Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir. The child belonged to the nomadic Bakarwal community. Her brutalised body was found by locals a kilometre away from the village.
Justice Pardiwala, who authored the judgment, expressed doubts whether the merciful ways of the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 with the singular objective to reform juvenile delinquents has only in turn become a protective cover for them to commit heinous crimes with certain impunity.
Goal of reformation
“There is a school of thought existing in our country that firmly believes that howsoever heinous the crime may be, be it single rape, gangrape, drug peddling or murder but if the accused is a juvenile, he should be dealt with keeping in mind only one thing i.e., the goal of reformation. The school of thought we are talking about believes that the goal of reformation is ideal,” Justice Pardiwala observed.
The court said the rate of juvenile delinquency is rising in India. It was a matter of concern and required immediate attention.
“The manner in which brutal and heinous crimes have been committed over a period of time by the juveniles and still continue to be committed…We have started gathering an impression that the leniency with which the juveniles are dealt with in the name of the goal of reformation is making them more and more emboldened in indulging in such heinous crimes,” Justice Pardiwala said.