The Bitter Bile of ‘Juvenile’: The Khurai Gang Rape Case
Imagine this. Seven thugs committed a gang rape but they are too young to stand for trial. Apparently, a penis matures faster than its ‘owner’, but that is no issue at all as any legal intervention should be based on a refutable factor like the physical age of that owner.
However, what should we expect from a system of Indian Penal Codes and the Code of Criminal Procedure, which are mainly based on the rules made by colonial rulers more than a century ago?
Overall, such a legal procedure based on the age of a criminal can be highly disproportional to the nature of a crime. This is evident from the gang rape case of Cheiraoba, 14 April the last. Seven punks from Khurai in Imphal East raped two schoolgirls in one of the heinous crimes that had happened in the town.
According to a reliable source, the incident of gang rape took place on April 14 night when two underage girls, along with a friend who were going to attend a thabal chongba on a two-wheeler moped somewhere in Imphal East district, were stopped by the seven accused persons. They beat the friend, dragged them inside a Maruti Alto car and took them near a foothill at Kangla Sagolsang where the two underage girls were allegedly raped. (Text: The Sangai Express, 20 April 2017)
Another case also shows visibly that we need to have a conclusion on this argument of whether the penis comes first or the owner does. In the infamous Delhi Gang Rape Case of 2012, the youngest rapist was sent to a correctional facility but this punk was the cruelest of the lot in the aforementioned crime. However, just as elected representatives would always duck under the cover of the rule of law, the judicial system can shrug off by stating that it has done all that it can with due process by the book.
Back in Imphal, just one out of the seven is standing for trial, while the others have been ‘excused’ because they are underage—and ridiculously, their parents and families have also produced certificates to prove that they are truly underage as instructed by an investigating officer, though in the initial report only one of them was juvenile.
- Thongam Sadananda, 22
- Thounaojam Bikas, 19
- Loushangbam Thomas, 19
- Lousembam Suraj aka Dingku, 19
- Loushangbam Jayananda, 18
- Phuritsabam Rajan, 18
- Thounaojam Shashikanta aka Gora, 19
All of them belong to Khurai Angom Leikai. Now only Th Sadanand is standing for trial.\
By a simple logic, a criminal who commits a ‘felony’ like rape is old enough to be imprisoned or tried as an adult in a court regardless of any factor. For other crimes like a murder, there can be an alibi for self-defence or unintentional motive but for a rape, the condition is entirely different and thus the redundancy of bringing in the question of a juvenile court or a correctional facility. Again, the concept of rehabilitation can be applied to criminals who commit any crime but rape or other crimes that defy humanity.
As we have been brainwashed by the state, we love to believe that nobody is above the law even if the case in Manipur might be unique—because we know the political class and the military–security establishment are well above any mortal rules, legal or otherwise. Still, the government agencies and officials representing them are well aware of the fact that there is a huge power vacuum in Manipur, which has been taken over by civil society organisations, armed outfits and student groups and so on.
The public might not be able to question the legal establishment’s intent or its lacking but when those non-state groups, occupying a section of this vacuum, start taking up any action then, just like us, the state will remain a mute spectator if not making hollow announcement like the public should not resort to mob violence.
The other day, the Maoist Communist Party Manipur had already threatened to give befitting punishment to all the rapists. So, where does the holy rule of law of the establishment fit in the MCPM’s scheme of things? How are its worthy juvenile laws and concept of adulthood defined in such a scenario?
Killing and destruction are not the solution but that’s the trend in and around the town. The state and non-state actors have been setting dedicatedly, all in the name of fighting for the people!
‘Juvenile’ in the Legal Eye
Section 2 (l) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 has defined ‘juvenile in conflict with law’ as a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence and has not completed eighteenth year of age as on the date of commission of such offence. The December 16, 2012 gang rape in Delhi triggered major changes in criminal laws in India, especially those dealing with rape, but changes in the law dealing with juvenile offenders are still pending. The Rajya Sabha passed a new law in December 2015 to replace the existing provisions that have been in force since 2000. Under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015—which came into force from 15 January 2016—juveniles in conflict with law in the age group of 16–18, who are involved in heinous offences, can be tried as adults. (Text courtesy: Delhi Police / NDTV / The Gazette of India)
Elsewhere in India, the judiciary system might be grappling with the issues of pending cases and lack of transparency. Yet in a region notorious for holding a record for the most number of people arrested under the National Security Act, the condition is stark. To add insult to the injury, the legal system and its agents are inclined towards remaining deaf and dumb when it comes to people’s interest. Take for example, the screaming silence in the wake of the Centre advocating against the trial of its trigger-happy agents, who are also called security personnel.
This is regarding the legal experts and not the legal institution per se. In other words, as in other areas of our public life, legal professionals must be busy everywhere and in everything but their contribution to the public issues. This kind of reality is one primary reasons behind the occurrence of society-defying crimes because the criminals know the path to in and out of the legal shelter.
Leave alone the lawyers and advocates, no government representative or official will ever speak a word when New Delhi dictates, except of course in pre-election campaigns like Okram Ibobi did during November 2016–February 2017 against BJP and Narendra Modi.
When these punks are scrapping off the little bits of humanity that has been left in us, and when the state is coming up with concepts of juvenile delinquency, it only provokes ideas of resistance and puts a big question mark over the approach of both analytic and normative jurisprudence of the Indian legal establishment. To conclude, the seven punks should get what they deserve according to the concept of retribution and deterrence. None of them is juvenile; they are rapists and must get the punishment a rapist is supposed to get.