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Juvenile Act ties HC hands on rapist

WT24 Desk

The juvenile convict in the horrific December 16, 2012, gangrape case is all set to be released on Sunday, conditional to the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) report despite stiff opposition from Nirbhaya’s parents and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s plea seeking stay on his release, according to The Pioneer. .

Refusing to intervene, the Delhi High Court on Friday said he (juvenile) cannot be stopped from walking free under the existing provisions of law. The convict, now 20-year-old, is expected to walk out of the reformation home on December 20, at the end of his three-year jail term unless

there is a stay from the Supreme Court or social investigation report by the Juvenile Board establishes that restoration to family may not be in the best interest of the juvenile or if the parents or guardians refuse to accept him back.

Reacting on the development, a dejected Asha Devi, mother of the victim, told reporters outside the court premises, “Jurm jeet gaya, hum haar gaye (Crime has won and we have lost). Despite all our efforts for three years, our Government and our  courts have released a criminal. The assurance we were given was  that we will get justice but that has not been delivered. We are very disappointed. We haven’t seen him or met him. Despite all our efforts, the criminal will walk free.”

Contrary to the victim’s family, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said the HC order was not to stop the convict’s release from the reformation home.

“He will not be free but remain under the supervision and control of Management Committee till he is proved mentally sound. It’s not the release. For me the issue was whether he (juvenile) will be allowed to roam as a free man or not. The answer is no. Now he (juvenile) will be under the control of management committee of Juvenile Justice Board,” Swamy said.

As per the Juvenile Justice Rules, the convict will be kept under a management committee of JJB for a period of two years if the social investigation report by the Juvenile Board establishes that restoration to family may not be in the best interest of the juvenile or if the parents or guardians refuse to accept him back.

The Bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath put aside the public outcry against the release of the accused and directed the JJB to interact with the convict, his parents and concerned officials of Department of Women and Child Development regarding his “rehabilitation and social mainstreaming”.

The Bench said Swamy’s plea seeking stay on the release of juvenile convict cannot be allowed as the statutory and existing law was coming in its way. “Having regard to the fact that the maximum stay that can be directed in the special home under Section 15(1) of the Juvenile Justice Act is three years and that the convict would be completing the period of three years by December 20, 2015, there cannot be any direction to continue his stay in the special home beyond December 20. Hence, we decline to issue any direction as prayed by the petitioner,” the bench said while allowing the convict to walk free.

Six people, including the juvenile, had brutally assaulted and raped a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus in south Delhi.

The victim had died in a Singapore hospital on December 29, 2012. Mukesh, Vinay, Pawan and Akshay were awarded death penalty by trial court in the gang rape and murder case which was later confirmed by Delhi High Court. Their appeals are pending before the Supreme Court. Accused Ram Singh had allegedly committed suicide in Tihar Jail on March 11, 2013, and proceedings against him were abated following his death.

Nirbhaya’s father Badri Singh said they have no plans to move the the Supreme Court for now. “The order must be delivered while keeping in mind that it helps in the betterment of society and acts as a deterrent so that no one can commit such kind of crime in future,” he said, adding, that the law must be changed.

The Central Government’s standing counsel Anil Soni said, “Once again the terror of Delhi will walk on street of the national Capital, just because, unfortunately, the Rajya Sabha has not passed the amendment bill of Juvenile Justice Act, enhancing the sentence of juvenile involved in serious offence. However the court has taken into consideration the point rose in the writ petition and will deliberate upon it and has also given next date of hearing in the matter.”

Delivering the verdict, the HC said, the issue of reformation of juvenile in conflict with law required deeper consideration and sought response of the Centre and Delhi Government on the issue within eight weeks.

“The need for ascertaining the factum of reformation of the juveniles in conflict with law before they are released from the special home on expiry of the period of stay ordered by the JJ Board, is a larger issue of public importance which requires deeper consideration…” the Bench said.

The release of the convict was also opposed by Centre which had said that several mandatory aspects were missing from the post-release rehabilitation plan which needed to be considered before setting him free.

In his petition, Swamy had claimed that there is lacuna in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, as amended in 2011. JJ Board had sentenced the juvenile three years detention in reformation home. In the petition, Swamy contended that “no provision has been made in the Act, to provide for vicious unregenerate convicted juveniles who despite having undergone the reformation process for the maximum penalty of three years custody in a special home, continue to be a menace to the society”…

“The question arises, in a very acute form, in the instant gangrape case, where the respondent no.1 (juvenile), one of the offenders, who was adjudged to be under eighteen years of age at the time of the offence, is about to complete the maximum period of the offence prescribed….,” the plea had said.

The Supreme Court had earlier rejected Swamy’s petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000.

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