NEW DELHI: Even as the country is demanding harsher punishment like life imprisonment or death penalty for all the accused in the Delhi bus gang rape case, one of the accused – a minor – will not only get away with a lighter sentence, if found involved in the crime, he may also get released after he attains majority in a few months.
The juvenile accused, who is said to be the most brutal of all the accused, is short of some five months to attain majority. If found involved in the crime after he has turned 18, the juvenile cannot be kept in the juvenile correction home or any other reformatory home for the minors as the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act does not allow adults to be kept with juveniles in correction homes. At the same time, the juvenile who has attained majority cannot be transferred to Tihar Jail as the law does not allow such persons tried under the JJ Act to be kept in jail meant for adults. Tihar Jail PRO Sunil Gupta confirmed the same. “We do not keep any person who has been sentenced under the JJ Act even if he has attained majority at the time of the board’s decision,” Gupta said.
The juvenile accused will face a separate trial under the JJ Act and a maximum sentence that can be given by the Juvenile Justice Board is three years. However, if the minor turns major during the pendency of the trial and is found involved in the crime later, then he cannot be kept in the reformatory home.
Legal experts say that while framing the JJ Act, the lawmakers could not think of such a situation and hence, in such cases, there is no defined law.
“The JJBs in the capital have been very clear about not sending any person to special home if he or she has turned adult but now ministry of women & child development is contemplating bringing some amendments in this regards for keeping such persons to a ‘Correctional Facility for Adults’ but it is not clear as to whether this may also mean a jail or not. There issue is still under intense debate and consideration by all concerned,” said lawyer Anant Kumar Asthana, an expert in juvenile cases.
In exceptional cases where a person is above 16 years and has committed a heinous offence or that his conduct is such that he cannot be kept with other juveniles in special home, the JJB may pass an order for keeping such person in a place of safety, recommended by the state government. However, if a minor has turned adult, the order for keeping him in special home cannot be passed and superior courts have supported this view.