Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Majority of the members of Indian Parliament have shown no concern for the soul of India, as has been established by passing of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 on 22nd December in the Rajya Sabha completing its parliamentary course that had got the stamp of adoption in the Lok Sabha on 7th May. It is such a mockery of legislation, having not paid any heed to cries of India for justice to its soul – Nirbhaya, that, the President should do good by refusing the Bill his assent.
Had Jyoti Singh of New Delhi not been brutalized by a gang of satyrs in December 2012, too savage and severe for medical science to save her life, this Bill would not have been generated at all. Her indomitable will to live to see the bruits punished by her motherland had kept her alive till in utter despair she allowed her breathe to pass away. Her desire to see the criminals punished did not die with her death. We the People of India took her to be the symbol of our tortured yet courageous entity by calling her Nirbhaya, the soul of India.
It was soon found that the youngest of the criminals that brutalized Nirbhaya was juvenile, four months to cross the age of 18 years.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 (as amended in 2006) was protecting him from punishment applicable to adult criminals. Hence, as demanded by whole of India, the Bill in question was conceived to reduce this age limit to 16 from 18 to give justice to Nirbhaya by punishing the youngest and yet the severest savage.
When the Bill was drafted it was inherently defective meant as if to ensure escapement to this young bruit. It was a haphazard draft very much in need of vetting in a Parliamentary Select Committee. The age factor was creating confusion. The approach was not based on criminology of rape. Before leaving the House in protest, Sitaram Yechury, leader of CPI (M), had rightly asked, “Today you are demanding the juvenile age to be reduced from 18 to 16 ; what if tomorrow a 15-year old commits a horrendous crime?” Members, who passed the Bill, did not bother about the question. Had the Bill been sent to Select Committee, members thereof might have stumbled upon the angle I am pointing to. But that did not happen.
The members did not bother to make the new law applicable to the juvenile criminal because of whose savagery Nirbhaya had lost her life. Minister-in-charge Maneka Gandhi had made it clear in the House that the Bill won’t be retrospective. Sad, the members could not catch even then that the main purpose of going for the new law was going to be defeated. They did not bother about this mischief.
The Supreme Court refused to intervene, because, by applying the old law of 2000 to set free the criminal in absence of any law to keep him under the Court’s clutch any further, the High Court had committed no illegality.
Before passing the Bill, the Rajya Sabha was aware of this. It was aware of the fact that unless given retrospective effect, the core purpose of engagement with the Bill before it was to be lost. It should have woken to the occasion and made the Bill retrospective. Had it acted diligently and passed the Bill in time with retrospective effect, at least from December 16, 2012 the day on which the horrendous crime having shocked the country had necessitated this new Law, the bruit that according to government has not reformed, could not have been put back in the society, to the panic of the society, as has been done.
It is better for the President, in the circumstances, to refuse his assent to this Bill, so that legislative wisdom may get a new chance to do away with the wrong the lawmakers have committed in this case in the aspect as discussed above.