Demand to reduce age of juvenility in heinous crimes unjustified, says Minna Kabir

Justice

At a time when there's a chorus for showing no leniency to the juvenile among the six arrested for the gangrape of the 23-year-old woman who later died in a Singapore hospital, children's rights workers are cautioning that laws should not be bent simply because there is public outrage.

Minna Kabir, voluntary children's rights worker who has long been associated with the legal aid cell at the juvenile justice boards in Delhi, said: "The law says it is not the crime that matters, it is the child standing before you that matters."

"Why should we treat him as different from other children? If a child has committed a crime, it means society has failed him in one way or another and needs to think about his reform and rehabilitation," said Kabir whose husband Altamas Kabir is the Chief Justice of India.

She said calls for reducing the age of juvenility for those accused of heinous crimes are unjustified.

"We should strike a balance in our thinking. Instead of reacting with hysteria, various people should come up with constructive ideas to combat the systemic failure that leads to criminality. There is need for proper education, counselling of these children. Society seems to encourage sex, advertisements today are full of sexual situations, we are losing values and that is why such cases are happening," Kabir said.

Professor Ved Kumari, expert on juvenile justice law and ex-chairperson of the Delhi Judicial Academy, said: "Let our outrage at the absence of safe spaces for women not blind us to the absence of care to children."

Raaj Mangal Prasad, former chairperson of the child welfare committee, cautioned against a "knee jerk reaction". "A change in the law will have a negative impact on all children who are in vulnerable positions. What will you do if a 13-year-old is accused of rape and murder?" he said.

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