Juvenile offenders feel deep remorse over their actions

Study findings submitted to parliamentary panel

Juvenile offenders feel deep remorse over their actions

At a time when the country is sharply divided about treating children accused of heinous crimes as adults and punished accordingly, a focus group study of 12 juveniles from two observation homes in Bengaluru shows that all the minor offenders felt deep remorse over what they had done and wanted to reform themselves.

These juveniles were charged with such crimes as murder, rape, robbery and theft.
The study was carried out by a team from the Centre for Child and the Law (CCL), the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), and Bengaluru-based child nonprofits, Bosco and Echo.

It is an integral part of a submission made by the NLSIU to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, that seeks to re-enact the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, paving the way for trying the children aged between 16 and 18 as adults in serious crimes.

In the study, the juveniles were asked eight questions ranging from their experience in juvenile homes to reasons for committing the crime, the impact of their crime on the concerned victim and their kin to opinions on lowering the punishable age, etc.

Noting that all the children in the group seemed to have “reflected on their actions and arrived at their own insights”, the study quotes one child, simply named S, 17, as saying: “I realised the truth of my mother’s warnings. I decided that I will never mingle with my old friends again, should think for myself and never blindly do what my friends tell me to do.”

The child was charged with housebreak and theft, along with a gang.

All the children opined that a number of false cases were foisted on them and their families. In such a scenario, going to jail would lead to serious ramifications. As one child, named R, put it: “We may go in for stealing only a pin, but when we come out, we would have learnt to steal gold.”

As an example of remorse shown by the children, the study quotes a 14-year-old, one of the youngest in the group, as saying, “Neither we nor our victims got anything out of this. We have all suffered, only the police have benefited and made money from our misfortune.”

There was unanimity among the children that bringing down the punishable age would serve no good. S P, a 15-year-old charged with robbery, commented: “We do commit mistakes, but please do give us a chance; we are still children after all.”

But opposition to lowering the punishable age remains strong. Anita Makharia, a parent, wondered what message the society would be sending to the victims of crimes if a juvenile charged with serious crimes like the Delhi gang rape was not given due punishment.

“Children these days are exposed to a lot of things and grow up faster than, say children a decade ago. I don’t think it would be wrong to bring this legislation. A child committing such a crime should be punished according to the severity of his crime rather than his age,” she said.

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