Much is said and written on the juvenile crime, debate is going on continuously on who should be treated a juvenile and who must be taken to task in the court of justice as an adult according to law. The world today is sitting on the information bomb and even four year old boy or girl too is given the overdose of knowledge by people around him or her which ultimately is making our babies and babas very matured and perfect human being at the childish age. Understanding life is not bad; on the contrary we must be proud of our young population for having known the secrets very early. But, other side of the story is also there which tells us clearly that half knowledge or knowledge without responsibility is dangerous. The Society has to pay the price for the adventurous attitude of our would be managers of the nation.
On December 16, 2012 Nirbhaya was gang raped on a running bus in New Delhi and one who was the cruelest of all happened to be a minor so though others arrested  were given  capital punishment , this real criminal was sent to the juvenile reform house that too only for three years. Entire nation got shocked hearing that the beast of all those arrested was presumed to be innocent for his age so the law says his case should be handled carefully and properly. This means he must be treated not as a criminal but as a juvenile who needs lessons on life and therefore it is the duty of the law and society to transform and convert such a hardened criminal into a sophisticated, well mannered and morally right young boy. And accordingly the seventeen year and six month old sadist was liberally punished. This has happened according to the Juvenile Protection and Care Act.
It is said and believed also that the law is nothing but common sense. So the law makers in advance make a declaration that “Ignorance of law is no excuse “accordingly nobody can plea that he did not know that what he did was illegal or contrary to law of the land. But if offender is juvenile then the law itself comes in support of such criminal with the logic that being young or juvenile the wrong doer had no knowledge of the consequences of his actions hence his case deserves softness and instead of punishment such criminals must be sent to reform home. Ignorance of juvenile is a good and admissible plea in the eyes of the court. That is how laws are made. One law stands against the other and therefore administration of justice becomes very difficult. Should there not be any consideration in law for the young ones? Should they be treated just like any other adult offender?  These tricky questions are demanding more attention for more and more babies of two and three year old are being frequently raped by so called juvenile almost every day in our nation.
Whether laws protecting juvenile offenders are needed or not, has become irrelevant when entire nation collectively stood against that Act. It happened when just after three years punishment Nirbhaya killer was freed. Parents of Nirbhaya protested and men and women supported them whole-heartedly. Huge rallies were taken out on the streets of Delhi and the demand was clear, Change the law which defends juvenile offenders in the name of protecting innocence – this law must go lock, stock and barrel. Prominent people also openly came out in support of  parents and in parliament the debate took place on already held pending amendment bill of the Juvenile Protection and Care Act.
And the law is amended. It was passed in both the houses and sent for the president’s approval. He also agreed with it and then the age of juvenile was changed. It is reduced by two years. Now sixteen year old offenders will be treated on a par with the adults and the shield provided to them under the previous Act was withdrawn. But, one question has now become more relevant. Is it enough to reduce the age by two years? Agreed that lowering the age of juvenile would be beneficial for the statistics says that those who did dastardly crimes belong to the age group from 16 to 18 years. There are very few cases in which less than sixteen year old were found guilty of committing rape and murder.
The problem is that laws relate with and one law gives birth to another. Here for speedy justice to the victims, parliament has amended and changed the definition of juvenile but will it not affect other activities also? Ours is a democracy and every adult is authorised to vote in all the elections, Now, after this amendment the question is –Are we going to allow sixteen year old young boy and girl to vote in the elections for they have now become major and matured and on a par with adults who enjoy the right to vote and elect the government. Will this amendment not affect the law of inheritance? If one is not juvenile then what really is his position in the democratic set up, must now be made clear by the law of the land.
There are hundred and more restrictions on minors. Our law had been taking care of juvenile and minor people just like his or her parents. Law says –Dear young boy, you cannot drive two-wheeler and four-wheeler as long as you don’t reach the age of eighteen years. The same law tells the families of children that marrying your son or the daughter before the age of eighteen years is a criminal act so wait for the right age of adulthood.
Law is very clear on the definition of rape and says that if a girl with her consent also makes physical relation with a man then the man may be booked under section 377 for raping the minor girl. Her consent becomes unimportant in such cases. In fact a boy or girl below the age of eighteen years is not competent to do any action without involvement of his or her parents. And there is other Act called the Wards and Guardians Act which deals with every kind of transaction a minor makes with others. Even a savings bank account cannot be opened without the permission of parents.
And psychologically also,, there is difference between a minor and the major mind. So, the burning million dollar question is – Will the government change other laws also; because by amending the definition of juvenile the definition of minor and major is also affected. Is it not a problem? It may or may not be a problem of law but it can very safely be said that this amendment is the evidence of the strength of our democratic system which takes into consideration the demand of the people and ours is in the real sense a democracy for the people, of the people and by the people. But, the problem is bitter and serious one. Is it justified to work and act according to the pressure of crowd? Should system not study pros and cons of any rule or law before presenting it before parliament? By arguing like this, are we again not travelling on the old path which granted cover to the juvenile offender. And the purpose of punishment also should be properly dealt with. In fact the only purpose must be to curb crime so that peace loving subjects feel themselves secure and safe.
Death penalty is also supported for it works as a dete-rrent against crime. But, that is also not happening. Criminals are hanged but society even today is not crime free. We hear news of murders from all the four corners of our nation and wonder how despite stringent punishment heinous crimes are taking place? Some argue that had there not been death penalty, murder and rapes would have increased manifold. But for the severe punishment rate of crime is not very much alarming. So, should we hope that changed or amended law will control the criminal activities and reduce the rate of juvenile crime considerably. Some learned and wise men plead that the purpose is to fight the beast resting within hearts and souls of these offenders. Call it Satan or devil who instigates a juvenile to become cruel towards girls and women. .So, they say, need is to take them on to the path of salvation and for that first of all environment around them should be drastically changed. They say, that meditation miraculously reaches at the bottom of sub—consciousness and plays very positive role which converts hot–headed beast into the coolest gentleman. What is wrong in trying, they opine? In fact these gentlemen are asking to impart spiritual treatment to be meted out to juveniles instead of sending behind bar or to reform homes.
This problem is not that easy as it looks from outside. Unless and until entire society is changed from inside out nothing may happen. Change does not mean eradication of poverty only. It must be like what Socrates had said “Know yourself and ask who am I? When you get answer that means you have found truth. But this is idealism and we want system that works and such system perhaps is far away from our reach. So, we have to bear with the beasts.”
*Email: jayant.rajimwale@gmail.com