Who is a juvenile?

Juvenile and the benchmark of being juvenile has been a puzzling dilemma for me ever since the horrific Delhi gang rape on that most disastrous December 16th. While nothing less than capital punishment should be the equitable verdict for such brutalism, one of them managed to get away from it as juvenile. Others who were found guilty along with him were sentenced to capital punishment but he was given only three years imprisonment in a reformation institution. Definition of juvenile must not be counted on age. In olden days, time was the only way to master an art. With the advancement of technology, time is not the unit of measurement for mastering art. Accessibility to modern means like internet connections, unrestricted porn sites and gadgets which enable to have utmost privacy for the youth to surf, view and master the ugliest side of sex art make them masters at the pre-end of teen age. Technically, a juvenile is too young a person for understanding the sense and seriousness of the crime (act) as he is unaware of such an act. (an act as horrendous, brutal and torturous as rape). In this crime if media reports are to be believed, this supposedly ‘juvenile’ seems “the most brutal” among the six accused and convicted who took turns to rape and torture Nirbhaya and go to the extent of inhumanly torturing and humiliating the very womanhood in her with an iron road, leaving indefinable injuries which resulted in her death a fortnight later. While both the system and the world are well aware of the unfathomable intensity of the crime, I am yet to fathom the reasons behind the disparity in punishments given.

The yardstick of being called a juvenile is wholly dependent on the acts committed and definitely not the age. When I am writing this post, a prominent news channel is repeatedly telecasting the appalling story from a South Indian town where a 15 plus year old boy brutally raped and murdered a girl who is less than half his age. Here the laws of the country speak contrary. I find no reason to call the criminal a juvenile, when the crime committed is far from the contours of juvenility. Give the age and the mental makeup, no juvenile grows on physical and mental perspective to commit a sexual act. Hence, if a juvenile performs a sexual act whatsoever, technically he/she has to be categorized as an adult, and should be awarded the supreme punishment. The correction home where a juvenile offender enjoys his forced ‘vacation’ is no less than a breeding home where he gets morphed in to a more dangerous predator that no society can afford to accommodate. A juvenile committing a predetermined sexual violence should never get away with a mere lash on the wrist. Here is the reason: According to a recently published online article, about “50 percent of all sexual crimes in India are committed by teenagers. (who know they can get away with it.)” The advocates of juvenile justice keep affirming the need of punishments that brings in reform and rehabilitation, and is devoid of any vindictiveness or revenge. But as I read the medical reports that cite the mortal injuries inflicted on Nirbhaya, I cannot help but wonder why many still cry foul on against amending Juvenile Justice Laws.

Juvenile is called so based on the physical and mental state of being of a person. A juvenile delinquent is as sexually active as a perverted adult. He/she can no more be counted as a juvenile just on the age. I am not a legal professional nor am I aware of the legal intricacies. For lack of knowledge on the complex legal quandaries, I don’t think I can advocate on lowering the juvenile age limit, but as a commoner and strong follower of the judicial system of the country, I believe that a juvenile law applies only to the crimes that can be categorized as juvenile, whereas rape, murder, acid attack, robbery, kidnapping, and other criminal acts can never be included in it. When it comes to crimes so horrific and anti-social as rape and murder, rehabilitation is a faint possibility, but for the miracles like Reni Isaac. However, swift actions and appropriate punishments can definitely send a strong message across the society, thus making sexual offenders think twice before violating a woman’s freedom or trying to trespass her body. Hence punishment as a corrective measure should depend on the gravity of the crimes committed, it be by juvenile or adult.

The culpability of a juvenile is often taken as his immaturity. I wonder what on earth can make one come to the conclusion that all men on earth get matured by the age of 18. As adolescence can scientifically last until 20, It seems strange when the world around gets clung on to the age of 18 as the onset of adulthood. This brings in a curious question. If 18 years mark the onset of adulthood, and brings in all the characteristics of an adult male or female, what should technically be the age of a juvenile who does a fully-fledged sexual act on someone? 18 years? While these cruelties are hard-core actualities, the punishment for them varies for the less-than 18 and the 18+, just because of the age, the mere number, and not the mental makeup and the intensity of the act committed. Childhood and adulthood hardly rests upon the age, but the acts committed. Given the heinousness of crimes committed the under aged should be treated on par with the adults and should be given the same punishment, because juvenile is not the personification of utmost heinousness to commit a spine chilling cruelty.


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