Verdict on gang rape accused juvenile may be put off

New Delhi, July 31 (IANS) The verdict on the juvenile accused in the Dec 16, 2012 gang rape here is likely to be put on hold as the Supreme Court Wednesday fixed Aug 14 for hearing a plea seeking his trial in a regular court instead of the Juvenile Justice Board.

Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy has petitioned the apex court, challenging the law fixing 18 as the age of juvenile, and the court Wednesday asked him to inform the Juvenile Justice Board that it will hear the petition Aug 14.

Swamy moved the public interest litigation seeking reframing of section 2(k) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 which says, "juvenile" or "child" means a person who has not completed 18 year of age.

Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra told the apex court bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi that he would accordingly instruct the public prosecutor to inform the Juvenile Justice Board that it should not pronounce its verdict scheduled for Aug 5.

Swamy's petition said that for the purposes of criminal law juvenile accused should not be "emotionally and intellectually" more than 18 years.

Seeking the trial of the juvenile accused in the fast track court hearing the case against four adult co-accused, Swamy said the juvenile accused in Delhi gang rape case knew what he was doing and what were its consequences thus he should not get the shield of the Juvenile Justice Act.

The court also said that it will examine the maintainability of Swamy's petition as Luthra contended that there could not be any third party intervention in a criminal matter involving a state and an individual.

While saying that it will examine the maintainability of the plea of a third party coming in the criminal proceedings, Chief Justice Sathasivam observed: "The ASG is right that in criminal matters a third party is not allowed."

However, the court was told that it should consider the matter as it involved larger public issue.

The government, in its response to Swamy's plea, said: "The brains of adolescents, (especially those in the age group of 16-18 years) as also young adults, are not only more prone to risk taking behaviour, but are also not capable of weighting pros and cons of their actions and controlling their emotions as those of older adults."

"Therefore, it may not be assumed that the committing of a heinous and brutal offence such as rape is an indicator of emotional and intellectual maturity as this would be contrary to established developmental and neuroscience research findings", the government said in its affidavit filed by Vivek Joshi, joint secretary, women and child development ministry.

The government said that even the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law headed by Justice J.S. Verma had not recommended reduction in the age of juveniles in conflict with law. The Justice Verma committee was set up in the wake of the gang rape case.

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