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Reducing Age Limit for Juveniles
|by Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee|
A Hurried Decision
Consensus is said to have been reached on the Age of attaining adulthood. It is now down from 18 to 16 – that too on the ground of punishing one of the rapists who is by present standard considered minor and eligible for bail on that age ground. It is laudable that the Group of Ministers (GoM) reached such a consensus. But if the gangrape is the only reason for such a breath-taking decision being adopted, then things do not augur well for the country.
Thus the stage is all set for reducing the age bar for men and women of 16. Since the proposition centers on the gangrape, and the whole nation waits with a throbbing heart to see what is actually happening, it is highly debatable if it at all can yield any good result. One gangrape, however, horrendous it is, cannot establish anything on this earth. But with surmise we wait till today that no statement comes out in favor of Nirbhaya (an imaginary name for the Delhi gangrape) from the authority, but suddenly for punishing a minor one, the draft is being changed to a bill.
All states in principle agreed on reducing the age limit for juveniles from 18 to 16 at a meeting of Chief Secretaries and police officers in Delhi and the meeting was chaired by Home Minister. The minor was most barbaric in the brutal gangrape and murder of the victim. The juvenile reportedly removed her intestines with his bare hands and suggested that she be thrown off the bus. After this anyone will agree that for punishing the juvenile crime any step can be taken. The problem is elsewhere. After the reduction of the age, in many other situations, the young people may claim to do more ghastly things on the plea that they have become adult and the parents will not have any control over them. That is the other side which very few now are thinking. At the age of 16, a young man does not even leave school. But after the passing of the law for reducing the age limit, a schoolboy may challenge the parents and may claim property even, along with other rights to freedom. The word minor will be of no value after this. At sixteen very children gain maturity and if they are suddenly told that adulthood comes so early, then there remains every chance to misuse the opportunity. Section 2(k) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 defines juvenile as a boy who has not completed 18 years of age.
Now a days, love marriage and elopement occur every now and then. After the passing of the bill, the 16 year school boy may take any step against the family members and parents. It is true that the gang rape victim’s soul will get some consolation if the accused minor is not spared on the plea of juvenility. But there are also other problems and consequences as well in reducing the age limit for attaining adulthood. It is very rare that a boy of sixteen can take any decision independently and with full responsibility. After the Bill is passed, child marriage will grow and many such other incidents will occur which may create a bigger crisis. It was better that we had taken some more time in passing the bill and at the same time there should be a special bill for punishing the minor accused in the gang rape in the harshest possible way. But to generalize the issue and to bring all 16 years old youths to claim adulthood for them is a decision taken in a hurry. It is not ensured that such reduction in the age will help reduce rapes in number. It is next to impossible for us to agree that by reducing the age limit for the juveniles, all evils can be removed or the juvenile crime can be checked. It is simply an eye wash and nothing more, at best a gimmick. We should think deeper over the issue. Or it will be an overmuch- hurried decision taken and it will have worse consequences in family and social life as well.
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