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TNN | Mar 17, 2013, 05.53AM IST
NEW DELHI: With growing demands for stringent punishment for the juvenile accused in the December 16 Delhi gang rape case, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Altmas Kabir expressed deep concern over the “knee-jerk'' reaction and “baying for blood''. The CJI's statements come at a time when there is an increasing debate on lowering the age for a juvenile who has committed heinous crime so that he is liable for harsher punishment. The family of Nirbhaya, the Delhi gangrape victim, has also demanded that the juvenile accused in the case be hanged.
Speaking at the International Colloquium on Juvenile Justice organized by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights on Saturday, Justice Kabir said, “Whenever something drastic happens in society, there is baying for blood…'' referring to the thousands who protested at India Gate and Vijay Chowk in the aftermath of the incident demanding hanging of the accused.
He added that one incident should not “tarnish'' views on all children and that good sense should be allowed to prevail.
The CJI also expressed concern on reports that the juvenile was allegedly most cruel among the six accused in the incident. He said that there should be no speculation till evidence had been presented and the trial process was over. He added that the age of criminal responsibility and administration of the juvenile justice law were issues that had to be addressed.
His comments were echoed by other child rights experts and activists. ChildFund India national director Dola Mohapatra said that their opinion was running “counter-stream'' to the popular view which was to hang the juvenile. He laid stress on juvenile delinquency being a collective social responsibility rather than a failure of the police. “It is our responsibility to reform, not to punish,'' he said.
UNICEF country representative Louis-Georges Arsenault said that BRICS nations like Brazil and South Africa had become successful in implementing the juvenile justice laws and there was much to learn from them.
The issue of age of criminal responsibility has recently come in to focus after the incident where a juvenile aged 17 years and five months was found to be among the six accused. According to the existing law while the four accused (since one was recently found dead in Tihar Jail) can be tried for life term, the juvenile would only be liable to three years of prison.