The recent debate on the issue of reduction of the age of juvenile convicts brought out contrasting viewpoints between the electronic and print media.
While the electronic media was aggressively advocating that the age of juveniles involved in heinous crimes should be reduced immediately, the print media editorials had a more balanced approach.
Even after the bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha under intense pressure of the groups organizing candle-light marches and protests demanding the hanging of the juvenile, (which is barred even in the new Bill) editorials in leading newspapers like Hindustan Times and Hindu pointed out that the MPs had succumbed to the lynch mobs.
This becomes obvious by checking the proceedings of earlier sessions of parliament where MPs from almost all parties including Congress, TMC and the Left argued that reducing the age of juveniles to 16 went against the UN conventions and at least 5 Supreme Court judgments. Only the CPM took a contrary view saying that emotions should not over rule rationality.
TV anchors are not only in a hurry but are also snobbish. Instead of taking some time to study the subject, to understand the Juvenile Justice Bill of 2000 and the one introduced by Maneka Gandhi, they were ordering the politicians on the show to pass the Bill so that the parents of Nirbhaya could get justice.
They conveniently forgot that there were six convicts in the case of the brutal violence and gang- rape in December 2012 who had been arrested within days. The most brutal of them Ram Singh (this has been revealed in the report of the Juvenile Justice Board) had committed suicide while four others had been awarded death sentence. So it was not true that justice had not been done to Nirbhaya. The one who escaped despite all pressure of the media got away because laws are not applied with retrospective effect.
The anchors had no time to read an excellent 70 page report of the Standing Committee of the Ministry of HRD which had been asked to give their views on the proposed amendments suggested by Maneka Gandhi. The Committee strongly rejected the proposal.Had they done their home work they could have challenged the MPs as to why they had changed their stance in the Rajya Sabha.
Instead MPs like Derek O Brian of the TMC made a fool of themselves by saying that if this had been done to his daughter he would have shot the culprit. What’s so great in that it was the reaction of any father, anywhere in the world.
As a lawmaker he was expected to speak rationally by talking of all the children who would now come under the purview of the Criminal Justice system for adults. And tomorrow if a juvenile of 12 commits a crime the age would be reduced to 12 for one deviant.
Had the TV anchors done their homework they would have checked Maneka Gandhi when she was saying that incidents of crime by juveniles had increased in the last three years because official figures of the National Crime Records Bureau clearly say that the figures have been static.
By Amitabh Srivastava
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