Trying juvenile as adult would violate right to life: Centre

The Centre has rebutted Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy’s demand to try the juvenile accused in the December 16 gangrape in Delhi as an adult

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published: July 31, 2013 12:57:08 am

The Centre has rebutted Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy’s demand to try the juvenile accused in the December 16 gangrape in Delhi as an adult,saying this would violate the minor’s fundamental right to life and that the heinousness of a crime could not indicate intellectual and emotional maturity of a person.

“In the light of the proposition of law,it is not possible to accede to the prayer of the petitioner (Swamy) for trying respondent no. 1 (juvenile) as an adult under the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code as the same would amount to a violation of his right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution,” Ministry of Women and Child Development stated in its affidavit.

The affidavit in response to Swamy’s PIL would come up for hearing before a bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam on Wednesday.

Swamy has demanded a judicial interpretation of the Juvenile Justice Act since the objective of the Act,he claimed,could never have been to protect persons like the juvenile accused in the Delhi gangrape case. Such a “blanket protection” solely on the basis of age,he contended,abridged the right to life,right to free and fair trial and the rights of a victim,which formed part of Article 21.

However,the ministry has clarified that the protection to persons under 18 years old were granted under a valid legal regime and in accordance with international obligations and sound criteria relating to juvenile delinquency and possibility of their rehabilitation and re-integration into the society.

Opposing a plea to reduce the age of juvenility,the affidavit said that the classification was made under Article 15 (3) of the Constitution that allowed government to make special provisions for women and children and hence could not be alleged to be violative of any fundamental rights of other citizens.

It termed as “unacceptable” the contentions by Swamy that fixing the age at 18 years was illogical and that there could be no absolute immunity to offenders in serious cases. “The term of three years of placement in a special home has been considered sufficient time to provide a conducive and healthy environment wherein the juvenile can be provided necessary therapeutic and skill-building inputs,which would result in behaviour modification and ultimately life changing,” claimed the ministry.

Juveniles in the age group of 16-18 years,it said,were more prone to risk-taking behaviour and hence needed more protection. “It may not be assumed that committing of heinous and brutal offences,such as rape,is an indicator of emotional and intellectual maturity as this would be contrary to established development and neuroscience research findings,” the ministry asserted.

The affidavit also cited a 2005 Constitution bench verdict,ratifying the government’s decision to put 18 years as age of juvenility,and the verdict passed a fortnight ago wherein the apex court dismissed a bunch of petitions,similarly demanding that the age of juvenility be lowered and punishment be provided as per the gravity of the crime and not just according to the perpetrator age.

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