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Above: Justice Lokur (file pic)/Photo: Anil Shakya

Speaking at the Fourth Western Regional Consultation on Effective Implementation of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 in Indore on Saturday, Justice Madan B Lokur of the Supreme Court made some clarifications on the court’s view of the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act, regarding heinous crimes such as rape and murder. He said that it was not so that every case of a juvenile’s involvement in a rape and murder would necessarily be treated as a rarest of rare and fetch him capital punishment.

The judge, who is chairman of the Supreme Court Juvenile Justice Committee, said: “It is not that for every murder, for every rape, the only penalty is death penalty. I mean, we are not savages in this country.”  The entire process of juveniles also getting death penalty came to the fore following the horrific rape and killing of a 23-year-old in Delhi in 2012. Famous as the Nirbhaya case, the juvenile involved in that – who was also found to be the most cruel – got away with a three-year jail term at a reform home.

The hue and cry created following that brought about amendments in the act and it was decided and written into law that for a particularly heinous crime, even a juvenile could be treated and tried as an adult, hence also fetching capital punishment if needed. The case of the murder where seven-year-old Pradyuman Thakur, a student Ryan International School in Gurugram was killed last year with his throat slit, done by a class XI student of the same school, was the first instance where the murderer, despite being a juvenile, is being tried as an adult by the order of the Juvenile Justice Board.

This is the backdrop before which the Justice Lokur also admitted that “perhaps” the POCSO courts were “not functioning as well as they should”, says a report.

He stressed on the importance of working with evidence. He said: “Just because the person happens to be 17 years old or close to 18 years old, commits a heinous crime — therefore he must get the death penalty, it cannot be like that. You have to still work on the basis of evidence and come to some conclusion.”

He also said that the Child Rights Protection Commission, states and the Centre should “work together” on the issues of the large number of missing children, child labour and child trafficking.

—India Legal Bureau

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