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SC relief for bus juvenile

New Delhi, March 28: The Supreme Court has refused to order a retrial of the juvenile accused in the Delhi bus gang rape under ordinary criminal law, as requested by the victim’s parents and former Union law minister Subramanian Swamy.

The accused, whose school records say he was 17 when the crime was committed on December 16, 2012, has been convicted under the Juvenile Justice Act and handed the maximum punishment of three years in a reformatory home.

The apex court found no reason to strike down the JJ Act’s provisions as unconstitutional merely because a growing number of minors are being accused of involvement in grave offences.

It said it would not be “tempted” by statistics to quash the act, and asserted that Parliament alone could take such a decision.

“Elaborate statistics have been laid before us to show the extent of serious crimes committed by juveniles and the increase in the rate of such crimes, of late. We refuse to be tempted to enter into the said arena, which is primarily for the legislature to consider,” the bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh said.

“Courts must take care not to express opinions on the sufficiency or adequacy of such figures and should confine (their) scrutiny to the legality and not the necessity of the law to be made or continued.”

Of the five adult accused, one apparently committed suicide in jail and the other four have been sentenced to death. The petitioners had demanded the juvenile too be tried under Indian Penal Code provisions and hanged.

The Centre took the stand that a minor’s psychological, intellectual and emotional maturity cannot be objectively determined on a case-by-case basis and so a “minimum age of criminal responsibility” had been fixed under the JJ Act.

It said this was a policy decision taken to honour the country’s international commitments.

Citing scientific research and medical opinion, the apex court said: “Studies of adolescent brain anatomy clearly indicate that regions of the brain that regulate such things as foresight, impulse control and resistance to peer pressure are in a developing stage up to the age of 18.”

Dismissing the petitions, it added: “These are normative phenomenon that a teenager cannot control and not a pathological illness or defect. The avowed object is to ensure their rehabilitation in society and to enable the young offenders to become useful members of society.”