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Jan 29, 2013 at 08:27am IST

Delhi gangrape: Decision on juvenile reignites debate on penalty for minors

New Delhi: The Juvenile Justice Board's decision to declare the sixth accused a minor in the Delhi gangrape-murder case has reignited the debate on whether there is a need to revise the Juvenile Justice Act. Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy said that in such cases, there has to be retribution.

Case studies have shown that even in the US where judges are allowed discretion, juvenile crimes haven't stopped. When asked to about whether it will make a difference in India, Swamy said, "It's not a question of stopping or not. You are actually advocating scrapping of the Indian Penal Code. The question is when somebody commits a crime, which affects the rights of somebody else in a grave way, there has to be retribution. He should be subjected to a proportionate punishment."

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Swamy had filed a petition in the court asking for the sixth accused in the Delhi gangrape case to not be treated as a juvenile.

On the other hand Amod K Kanth, former DGP, Arunachal Pradesh and former Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child, said that a juvenile has to be treated differently. "Am I speaking a lie if I say that each one of us must treat our children differently? Below the age of 18, a child has no right to marry, vote or drive, then are we going to submit to same justice system without these rights? In case of a child, there can be no question of proportionality, the child has to be dealt with differently in a reformist mode," he said.

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Meanwhile, the family of the Delhi braveheart termed the Juvenile Justice Board's decision as "unfortunate" and said that they would challenge it in the court. "The family would consult legal experts and challenge the matter in the relevant court," the brother of the girl said.

"The family is not ready to accept that the sixth accused get anything less than death penalty," the brother said, adding that the minor accused should also get the same punishment of death penalty for which the central government should make necessary changes in the law.

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Forty-three days after the horrific gangrape shocked India like never before, a Juvenile Justice Board ruled that the sixth accused is a juvenile and hence cannot be tried and sentenced under criminal law. The Board went with records of the school where the juvenile studied and then dropped out. The principals had produced school leaving records, which put his date of birth at June 04, 1995, making him 17 years and 6 months when the crime occurred.

The court had summoned both the then principal and the current principal of the school from which the juvenile dropped out in class 3. The then principal of the school told the media outside the courtroom that the date on the register was as per the statement of the mother of the minor.

Police sources say a decision on whether they will appeal against this order in sessions court hasn't been taken yet, stating that they are yet to study the full order. An enquiry report detailing the role of the juveline in the brutal rape has been submitted to the Board.

Under juvenile law, if the minor is found in conflict with the law, he can only be sent for reform for a maximum of three years in a correction centre under a probation officer. The five others accused are adults and are facing trial in a regular court. They have been accused of murder, which carries death as the maximum penalty.

(With additional information from PTI)