Should Juveniles in Conflict with Law Face Similar Punishment As Adult Criminals?
By Team Legistify / 2016-03-31
Juveniles are not adults, and saying so doesn’t make it so. Besides, we don’t really mean it. When we try them in criminal court, we don’t deem them adults for other purposes, such as voting and drinking. We know they’re still minors, they’re developmentally less mature and responsible and more impulsive, erratic and vulnerable to negative peer pressure.

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"Old enough to do the crime, old enough to do the time." This popular refrain reduces a complex reality to simplistic rhetoric. It’s also wrong. While young people must be held accountable for serious crimes, the juvenile justice system exists for precisely that purpose. Funnelling more youth into the adult system does no good and much harm.

Juveniles are not adults, and saying so doesn’t make it so. Besides, we don’t really mean it. When we try them in criminal court, we don’t deem them adults for other purposes, such as voting and drinking. We know they’re still minors, they’re developmentally less mature and responsible and more impulsive, erratic and vulnerable to negative peer pressure. As people, they are still active works in progress. We just don’t like the logical consequences of that reality that they are by nature less culpable than lawbreaking adults, even when they do very bad things. So we change the rules of the game.

Nirbhaya Rape Case

“That boy everyone calls juvenile, he beat her with an iron rod. He inserted it into her body till it went all the way up and yanked it out, and with it, her intestines. As she shouted for him to stop, he screamed at her, 'Saali, mar! (Die, bitch)'. Yet the law calls him a juvenile,” said the mother of a 23-year-old victim of Delhi gangrape, making a strong case of death to the sixth accused, allegedly a juvenile.

The mother of the victim is not alone in wanting death for the sixth accused, who is said to be close to 18 years old. The sheer bestiality of the crime has pitched those who want juveniles to be treated as adults in exceptional cases of severe crimes against those who believe that there is no need for exceptions, as the law is clear on how minors should be treated. However, in the wake of Delhi gang rape, there have been demands to create a window in the existing law for exceptions in cases where juveniles are convicted of committing crimes of a heinous nature.

Juveniles are not adults, and saying so doesn’t make it so. Besides, we don’t really mean it. When we try them in criminal court, we don’t deem them adults for other purposes, such as voting and drinking. We know they’re still minors, they’re developmentally less mature and responsible and more impulsive, erratic and vulnerable to negative peer pressure.

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