Delhi rape: Juvenile rapist could walk free in months

The juvenile, according to the police, was the most brutal in the sexual assault on the victim.

NEW DELHI: The law may bestow leniency on him but according to the Delhi Police, the juvenile associate of the men who executed the gangrape of December 16 was the most brutal of them all.

According to the chargesheet, the juvenile had subjected the 23-year-old physiotherapist to sexual abuse twice, including once when she was unconscious. He extracted her intestine with his bare hands and suggested she be thrown off the moving vehicle devoid of her clothes, it says.

Even as the five men arrested for the gangrape-cum-murder of the 23-year-old paramedical student face the possibility of a death sentence, if proved guilty, the juvenile accused could even escape a jail term.

The boy, who is seventeen-and-a-half-year-old, would not face the trial under the Criminal Procedure Code like his companions.

Though he faces the grave charge of murder, the juvenile would face proceedings under the Juvenile Justice Act that is more of a reformatory process instead of a criminal trial.

The juvenile can be sentenced for a maximum of three years if found guilty. Even then, he would not be lodged in the Tihar jail but at a reformatory home.

Indian law states that those below 18 years of age, have to be tried by a Juvenile Justice Board for any crime allegedly committed by them, and not in the normal court of law.

Two days after he was nabbed on December 28, the police had applied to the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) for a bone ossification test of the juvenile - who, according to police, had subjected the victim to the most inhuman physical and sexual torture.

The Delhi Police, at the moment, is treating him as a juvenile purely on the basis of a school leaving certificate obtained from a school in Badaun, UP. With the test report still pending, police said, they were left with no option but to file charges and initiate legal proceedings only against the five adult members of the demonic gangrape.

"The JJB has to investigate and decide now," admitted a senior officer.

"We had applied to them two days after the minor had been nabbed. The whole process takes time," said the officer.

According to senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, the Juvenile Justice Act does not discriminate the gravity of the offence irrespective of its nature. "The objective of the act is to reform the child because it is possible that he may have committed an act under influence."

Pahwa further says that the procedure to treat juveniles and adults cannot be the same in criminal law.

"A juvenile has got some constitutional protections and therefore he has to be treated separately," he adds, stating there is nothing incorrect in the system that treats a juvenile differently even for committing a heinous offence along with his adult friends.

Public outrage

The public outrage has been based on allegations and the police version that of the six accused named in the Delhi gangrape case, it was the juvenile who inflicted the maximum brutalities on the victim.

Though the first law on protecting children from being prosecuted for having committed a criminal offence was put in place in 1850, constant amendments during the last three decades have compounded the problem.

The 1850 Apprentice Act provided for children in the 10-18 years age group, convicted by courts, to be provided vocational training intended for their future rehabilitation.

The Centre made the first Children Act in 1960 but it was in 1986 that the first central law on juvenile justice came up.

Its definition of juveniles stated :"Juvenile means a boy who has not attained the age of 16 years or a girl who has not attained the age of 18 years."

In 2000 conforming with the United Nations rules, the government raised the age of juveniles to 18 years.

In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the age of a juvenile accused of having committed any crime, should be determined by ascertaining it on the day of the alleged crime. (With inputs from Hindustan Times)