The Supreme Court has on Wednesday held that when an accused commits a heinous and grave crime like rape and thereafter attempts to take the statutory shelter under the guise of being a minor, a casual or cavalier approach while recording as to whether the accused is a juvenile or not cannot be permitted.
The SC made these remarks while setting aside the observations made by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court by which it had affirmed the order passed by the chief judicial magistrate, Kathua, holding one of the accused in the Kathua rape case be tried as a juvenile.
There were contradictions in the accused’s birth records. The medical board report had however concluded that the accused was aged between 19 and 23 at the commission of the crime in January 2018 at Rasana village near Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir. The child belonged to the nomadic Bakarwal community. Her brutalised body was found by locals a kilometer away from the village.
A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and JB Pardiwala held that such a causal approach cannot be permitted as the courts are enjoined upon to perform their duties with the object of protecting the confidence of a common man in the institution entrusted with the administration of justice.
The bench said it believed the goal of reformation was ideal but wondered whether the juvenile justice law had served its purpose.
In its judgement, the Supreme Court further observed that the crime that the respondent accused was charged with was heinous; its execution was vicious and cruel, by any stretch of imagination.
The Supreme Court observed in its judgement that the rising rate of juvenile delinquency in India is a matter of concern and requires immediate attention.
The division bench of the court observed, “The entire crime was calculated and ruthless. This case captured the attention and indignation of the society across the country, more particularly, in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, as a cruel crime that raised alarm regarding safety within the community…”.
Concerned about the increasing rates of juvenile offenders, Justice Pardiwala observed, “The manner in which brutal and heinous crimes have been committed over a period of time by the juveniles and still continue to be committed…We have started gathering an impression that the leniency with which the juveniles are dealt with in the name of the goal of reformation is making them more and more emboldened in indulging in such heinous crimes,”
Talking about the goal of reformations, Justice Pardiwala said, “There is a school of thought, existing in our country that firmly believes that howsoever heinous the crime may be, be it single rape, gangrape, drug peddling or murder but if the accused is a juvenile, he should be dealt with keeping in mind only one thing i.e., the goal of reformation. The school of thought we are talking about believes that the goal of reformation is ideal. The manner in which brutal and heinous crimes have been committed over a period of time by the juveniles and still continue to be committed, makes us wonder whether the Act, 2015 has sub served its object…”.
The court further held that an impression is being made that the leniency with which the juveniles are dealt with in the name of the goal of reformation is making them more and more emboldened in indulging in such heinous crimes.