Experts in juvenile law and child rights activists said the Juvenile Justice Board’s (JJB’s) decision to allow the teenager in the Mercedes hit-and-run case to be tried as an adult was “incorrect”.
Bharti Ali of Haq Foundation for Child Rights said the JJ Act and Rules do not allow an offence under Section 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) to be included under “heinous offences”.
“The draft rules are clear; if the offence does not have a minimum punishment of seven years then it is not a heinous offence,” said Ali.
The activist also said the teen “should have been brought into the juvenile justice system” when he was caught for rash driving the first time. “Why did police not bring him before the JJB when they caught him the first time?… He would have learnt the consequences of his actions,” said Ali.
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He also said suggestions had earlier been made by police and experts that parents of minors found driving vehicles should be prosecuted under Section 23 of the Old JJ Act for “cruelty” towards the child, as they had “put not only other persons on the road but also the minor’s life in danger”.
Advocate Vrinda Grover said including the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in the definition of “heinous offences” was “setting the bar really low”. “You start with heinous offences such as rape and murder… now you are saying that culpable homicide and rash and negligent driving is also covered. This is a cause for concern,” said Grover.
“There is no intention to murder anyone in such a case of rash driving. It was a horrific case and a young man lost his life. If we go down this road, are we ever going to allow for reformation,” she added.
The lawyer said putting the boy in the adult legal system “will only punish and not reform him”. “The adult system has no scope for reformation. A juvenile of this kind needs to be shown that what he has done is wrong,” she added.