Wednesday 31 December 2014


Article by: Advocate Tripti Shetty

Date: 31st December 2014.
Crime exists around the world. However certain acts may be considered as a crime in one country and the same act may be considered legal in some parts of the world. Is it our culture, our history or rules laid by our ancestors that determine what a crime is?

Born from the womb of crime is a criminal. He is a social animal who has deviated from the so called legal path. Can he be brought back to the path which is considered legal or proper by our society or does our system ensure that he is thrown into the midst of criminals never to return again? Does our legal system ensure that we reform the criminal or push him into dark dungeons where he is chiseled into a hardcore criminal?

“No child is ever born as a criminal by birth”. What are those circumstances which determine whether a child shall be a doctor, a lawyer, a musician, a tailor, a painter or a criminal? Are the circumstances at home instrumental in molding the mind of the child and his emotions which transform him from an “innocent child” to “a criminal”.

I have had the chance to meet several persons accused of various crimes in jail. One of the most interesting cases that I had handled was about a brothel keeper who was murdered by three boys in a most “filmi” manner. One of the boys who was about 17 years was in love with a girl and the brothel keeper was not ready to let her go unless the boy paid up Rs.40,000/-  to release her. The boy came up with a plan. He and his friends, one was 18 years few months and the other 19 went to stay at the brothel overnight. The same night they murdered the brothel keeper and tried to escape. However, upon hearing the girls at the brothel keeper screaming all the neighbors gathered. Unfortunately, the boys could not escape from the door as it was locked from outside. The boys ran to the attic which was about 40 feet high and jumped from there. I asked them this question…what were you thinking when you jumped…they said “Madam we thought just like the Hindi films we could jump and run away”…we would be heroes. Anyway, life is not a film which ends in 3 hours. One broke his back and had multiple fractures. He is paralyzed for life, others too suffered multiple injuries. The public who had gathered did not have to chase them as they were in no condition to run and were waiting for the police to turn up and take them to the hospital. The irony of the situation was that the other two friends who had accompanied the lover had no idea of his plans. Since they accompanied him the police accused them for conspiring the murder of the brothel keeper. The girls identified them and they were convicted for life. The quirk of fate was such that the lover boy was below 18. He was a juvenile. His case was conducted in a special court for child offenders and he was set free in few months. Whereas the other boys who where just above 18 were sentenced to spend their remaining life behind bars.

Thus several questions arise for thought. Is the mindset of the accused who is just 18 years and few months, different from the main accused who planned the murder? Just because he is few months less than 18 years is it fair that he is let off leniently and the others who simply accompanied him are destined to spend their remaining life behind bars. Did these boys really understand the implications of their act or were they simply inspired by Bollywood.

There are many unanswered questions in law. There is a need for reviewing and changing some of the old laws. Times have changed and our society today is today bombarded by media, internet, movies etc. Children are exposed at a young age to various social evils. Their minds are like balls of clay that can be molded in any way. However two contrary theories arise. If the children are exposed at an early age can we yet treat an offender committing a heinous crime as a “child”.  Second theory is that even if the children are becoming mature due to over exposure to media, are their minds mature enough to understand the implications of their act. So is it their age which should determine the law by which they should be governed or should it be an analysis of their level of maturity. The Delhi gang rape case in December 2012 had tremendous impact on public perception of the Act. Media highlighted that the juvenile allegedly involved in the case was amongst the "Most Brutal" of all accused persons. Is this not a loophole in the system? The entire issue requires considerable thought and a healthy debate.

As our society evolves and changes, we require a system to review our laws and decide if the laws are competent and updated to handle the changes within our society.

Just for information:

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 is the primary legal framework for juvenile justice in India. The Act provides for a special approach towards the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency and provides a framework for the protection, treatment and rehabilitation of children in the purview of the juvenile justice system. This law, brought in compliance of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), repealed the earlier Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 after India signed and ratified the UNCRC in 1992. This Act has been further amended in 2006 and 2010. The Government of India is once again contemplating bringing further amendments and a review committee has been constituted by Ministry of Women and Child Development which is reviewing the existing legislation.

Section 2 (k) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 defines “juvenile” or “Child” as a person who has not completed eighteenth year of age. Section 2 (l) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 has defined “juvenile in conflict with law” as a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence and has not completed eighteenth year of age as on the date of commission of such offence.