The Date was December 16 2012. Place- Munirka in South Delhi area. India has never seen a more brutal rape assault on a woman in its so called illustrious history. The sad part was one of the accused and later on convicted person was a teenager. Surprising? Not so. In recent times the rate of juveniles committing crime has been on a rise. Among the juveniles too, the age group 16-18 year olds commit 72% of these crimes. The parliament recently passed a law on the 18th of May saying that juveniles will be tried not under the juvenile law but under Indian Penal Code (IPC)- the code catering to the adults. This means more years in prison, possible death sentence and no respite. Is not this questioning man’s forgiving conscience and blemishing the very nature of the judiciary system- justice and mercy?
A story that comes quickly to my mind is that of “The Bishop’s Candlesticks” by Norman McKinnel. The bishop on coming to know of the convict’s theft not only pardons him but also allows him to escape with the candlesticks to safety. A classic, people have been appreciating the short story for years. So much so that it has now been a part of Indian student’s curriculum. We teach our young children about charity and mercy and being forgiving. But on the other hand for crimes that they do unintentionally we send them to damnation. With the country still up in arms against the Supreme Court for the hanging of Yakub Memom, we as a nation should review our systems. If we being in a civilized environment can commit mistakes often, then imagine the conditions and reasons behind even the heinous crimes these “lil brats” commit. Reformation should be the way forward. Earlier, the juveniles would have got a maximum verdict of 3 years in a juvenile reformation centre, where they are purged of what they did and some centres even administer skills and make the children capable of standing up on their own feet and earning. When you reform someone you add another good soul to the society and do it good, whereas if you punish and send people to jail it would only harbor more hatred in their heart. Imagine a situation where the teenager goes to prison at an age of 16 ad comes out at the age of 36 with no sense of remorse whatsoever, no job and no means to achieve what he wants. The ideal situation for him to turn to crime to earn a livelihood. We in India believe that once you teach the kid at a young age he remembers it for life. If somewhere they go wrong, it is our duty to guide them back to the right path. We do not certainly want our children to experience the pain and anguish of prison or even worse, death. When we reform them we change their perspective. Their view of the surroundings and the individual itself changes.
The lobbyist from the other side would quote the case involving the burgle-and-burn gang in South Delhi in 2010-11 whose juvenile ringleader allegedly taunted the police saying they could do nothing to him because he was not an adult. But the real problem here is not with the law and it’s binded hands. The problem here is imperfect implementation of the law and also neglection on part of us as a society towards these children. This should force us to rethink our ways and methods in handling justice. Justice fails hen emotions take over for the good. And that is why kannoon bhi andhi hoti hai sahib!