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Komal Panwar

Blogger & Singer

What If The Juvenile In Nirbhaya’s Case Deserves Another Chance?

  • IWB Post
  •  December 21, 2015


The news about the Juvenile offender being released has been doing the rounds, and as much as we want to, it’s impossible to forget the heinous offence to Nirbhaya. Nirbhaya has been the voice responsible for awakening many who were afraid to come forward and stand their grounds. Then why should they let the boy guilty of the brutal rape live freely?

Enakshi Ganguly, a child rights activist, speaks up why. Enakshi, who runs the HAQ Centre for Child Rights, counsels juvenile offenders, on the invitation of courts and juvenile justice boards, said, “
“Young people are easier to bring into an offence because they are easier to influence and brainwash.”

“But for the same reason, they are easier to reform. The idea is not to forgive, but to make them understand what they did, but give them a fresh start, a second chance, because they have a long life ahead of them.”

Now, I don’t buy it. And I don’t think any of us does. The crime he committed is way beyond our cruelest imagination. Letting him go means that we have forgiven him for what he has done, and I don’t think he deserves it.

Ganguly estimates three kinds of juvenile offenders – The first is the largest of all three categories. Since the age of consent in India, 18, and is much higher than the age of puberty, these are under-18 boys found having sex with under-18 girls, and parents typically file kidnapping and rape charges.

The second category is that of children who commit crimes in the spur of the moment.

She remembers another story of a 12-year-old domestic worker employed by an elderly couple in South Delhi against child labour laws, who murdered the couple. When asked why he committed the crime, he said that they would keep him hungry to make him do work. One night, it was midnight, and he wasn’t yet given food, and the elderly woman was scolding him for something. He pushed her, and she fell unconscious. He got scared when the old man saw this, and managed to kill them both.

Now, the question is, could he be the third kind?

The third kind, however, is the repeat offenders. They are the children who live on the streets and have committed a crime more than once.

“In all these years, only one or two of the children we have worked with have returned as adult criminals. Almost all of them get a new life. If a child does return as an adult criminal, treat him like an adult. But you can’t tell in advance whether someone will be a repeat offender,” says Ganguly.
The reason many are outraged to see him get a second chance in life is the extremity of his crime. “Why is it,” asks Ganguly, “that CRPF men raping tribal women in Chattisgarh are not seen as an extremity?” referring to a recent news report. She says it is dangerous to demonise all adolescent young men from poor backgrounds as potential criminals. “We don’t care for them when they languish on the streets but want the harshest punishment for them when they come in conflict with the law,” she says.

The juvenile says that he longs to go back to his village where he can begin with a small tailoring shop of his own.

Now apart from the fact that he’s a juvenile, there’s another side of the story. There is not enough proof against him. The Juvenile Justice Board claimed that this was why there was no reason to believe that he had been the most brutal of the six.

Keeping in mind his presence at the time of the rape, under various IPC provisions, he is liable to as much punishment as direct perpetrators of the crime.

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