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Nibhaya Case Judgment – Cheated and Betrayed?

Zeba Rizvi for BeyondHeadlines

The infamous Delhi Gang Rape case has brought shame for one and all, and re-ignited debate on capital punishment. This Friday a Delhi court judge will deliver his sentence against four men convicted of killing a woman they gang-raped.

The juvenile among the culprits, who is now 18, has been found guilty and sent to observation home for two and a half years. Some have a reason to be relieved, but women, feel cheated, protestors have gone unheard and victim’s father is a broken man who believes that it is a crime to be born as a woman in India and female foeticide and infanticide is better off for a woman than living in a country like ours.

Nibhaya Case Judgment - Cheated and Betrayed?Juveniles, make up 1.0% to 1.2% of reported crimes in our country. Out of all juveniles in conflict with law only 5%-8% are involved in serious crimes such as rape and murder. The numbers aren’t scary but do imagine – in 2012 alone, about 1,316 juveniles were booked on rape charges and another 685 booked on charges of molestation.

Now if we take their victims to be even half of those numbers that gives us 658 rape victims and 342, molestation victims. And thanks to the JJ Act, the perpetrators of these victims can be punished for a maximum of three years. Basic respect for Human Rights clamors that those number are skewed. Even if one person is violated and the culprit is scot free after only observation on the grounds that he/she is too young to be punished, then it is plain and simple wrong.

Under Sec 83 of IPC 1860, for minors between 7-12 years of age, it’s the court’s discretion to decide whether the child is guilty or not, factoring in child’s role and intent in planning and preparation of the crime. After the age of 12 years a child offender is treated at par with the rest and tried the same way. No doubt it went too harsh but instead of giving blanket immunity to a juvenile we should have thought of extending the discretion clause in a later age group of child offenders.

Reports say that the juvenile in Nirbhayas case was most brutal. It was the one who encouraged the victims to board the bus. After Nirbhayas and her friend were thrown out naked, the juvenile alerted his companions about the same and they tried to run them over to get rid of any evidence. If anywhere, then it was here that court’s discretion was most needed to ascertain his involvement, intent and gravity of crime.

The immunity enjoyed by him should be the privilege of child offenders involved in petty offences like theft, small scale vandalism and basically any crime that doesn’t include taking away someone else’s right to life and right over one’s own body. About 79% of juvenile delinquents come from challenging situations. In most cases they have been victims themselves. This boy, too ran away from his village and his life of poverty, at a tender age , came to Delhi and struggled everyday to get his life started. But does that give him the right to cast away humanity and brutalize a living being under the garb of bitterness at his own miseries? And are his miseries larger than the miseries that he inflicted upon Nirbhaya and her family?

In UK, a juvenile between the age of 16-18 years faces regular trial in case of offences like Rape and Murder. Same is the case in 20 out of 52 states in the USA. France has special courts to deal with heinous crimes committed by juveniles of age 16-18 years old. If nothing more then, we need similar provision within our legal system, specially keeping in minds that the number of rapes committed by juveniles has shown an alarming increase from 700-800s in the past four years to 1316 in 2012 which is just little less than the double.

Cheated and betrayed? Yes, I share that feeling. Do I think it’s fair? No. The most burning question in my mind is- two and a half years later when this unnamed and faceless person is let go, will he be reformed? If not, then how are we to protect ourselves against him?

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