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Juvenile Justice Bill gives justice to none. Least of all Jyoti's parents

Valay Singh | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 2:14 IST

The Bill

  • Rajya Sabha on Tuesday will consider the Juvenile Justice Bill
  • Congress has alsready come out in the Bill\'s support
  • The Bill has already been Lok Sabha
  • Congress support will get it cleared in Rajya Sabha too, making it an act

The politics

  • Jyoti Singh\'s grieving parents have come out in support of the Bill
  • Their agitation along with AAP workers drew media attention
  • This led other parties like Congress to panic and do a U-turn
  • Congress, Trinamool had earlier committed to referring the Bill to a select committee

More in the story

  • Will Jyoti\'s parents get justice if the Bill is passed?
  • What do they actually need
  • The deplorable stance of DCW chief Maliwal
  • Why the new Act will harm more then help

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill is up for Rajya Sabha's consideration on Tuesday. It has already been cleared by Lok Sabha.

But will things change for the better if the JJ Bill is passed? No. Neither will it improve women's safety nor will it bring justice to the parents of Jyoti Singh, whose fatal rape three years ago started the conversation.

The family's grief remains undiminished. We haven't let them move on.

For the last three years they have been paraded from one news studio to another, summoned to buttress a 'view'-- let us call it anti-rape -- by selfish and ignorant news anchors. Reporters have rushed to their homes, made late-night calls, all for a quote for any story on sexual assault that could make headlines.

Read more: The Juvenile Justice Debate: why the lynch mobs should not win

It's almost that their lives have been hijacked by the cause of women's security in this country. Did the media wonder, did the activists who use access to the family as a tool to further themselves, and hog TV airtime, think even once that perhaps they need some time alone to come to terms with their grief?

Did it not occur to them, learned and educated as they are, that Jyoti's parents need post-trauma counseling?

Maliwal's let-down

When Swati Maliwal, chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women and a so-called activist, sat with them outside the juvenile home a couple of nights ago. She exposed herself as another politician squishing the last drops of political mileage out of the tears of Jyoti's mother.

Read more: #Nirbhaya trial was a test case to destroy juvenile justice. Here's why it worked

As the head of DCW, isn't Maliwal expected to remain above this kind of emotional manipulation of an issue and of grieving parents for political gain? She just lost credibility as an activist.

DCW head Swati Maliwal was expected to remain above emotional manipulation

Maliwal ought to know that incarcerating juveniles is not going to increase women's safety. However, given the populist and utterly regressive stand of her leader -- Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal -- who sometime back had even proposed lowering the age of juveniles to 14 years, her campaign against juveniles makes sense.

Political U-turns

The Left parties and Dravida Munnetra Khazagam were are the only ones consistently opposed the Bill for its irrationality and juvenility.

Read more: What if the culprit was 15 years and 10 months, asks Yechury on the Juvenile Justice Bill

Until last week, both Congress and All-India Trinamool Congress's displayed the good sense to support the referral to a select committee of Rajya Sabha after the Bill's passage in Lok Sabha, where Bharatiya Janata Party has a a majority. Congress's support is crucial in Rajya Sabha as it has the most number of members.

On 7 December, 2015 Congress's Shantaram Naik moved a motion to refer the JJ Bill to a select committee of Rajya Sabha. In meetings with activists Congress leaders assured them repeatedly that they will not let this regressive law pass without further deliberation.

Trinamool's Derek O' Brien too assured activists that they understand the serious implication of this Bill for millions of children and that it needs more discussion.

Why then, did the two parties do a complete U-turn, jeopardizing the entire juvenile justice framework?

Read more: Juvenile rape: why AAP's remedy is worse than the malaise

Competitive Bloodlust

The juvenile accused in Jyoti's case completed his three-year detention at a juvenile home as per law and was released on 20 December.

Just days before that we saw an unprecedented bloodthirst for him. Fronted by Jyoti's grieving parents, the media unleashed a hate campaign calling him a 'monster', 'the devil' and what have you.

It was only a matter of time before politics would begin. Maliwal was the first to demand, against all laws, that the juvenile be not released. Her pleas were rejected by the Delhi High Court as well as the Supreme Court.

But, in a dark irony, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi too made similar statements against the juvenile's release.

At Friday's all-party meet called by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari it was decided that the House will be allowed to function and some Bills will be passed while the JJ Bill will be referred to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha. This was reported in the papers on Saturday.

Deplorable actions

Meanwhile, the undercurrent of blood lust against the juvenile convict and juveniles in general has become a flood of unabashed and grotesque calls for retributive justice.

On Saturday night, AAP workers -- led by Jyoti's parents -- protested outside the juvenile home where the convict was lodged. This created another irresistible media spectacle and set in place a churning among the Congress and other Opposition parties.

Read more: #NirbhayaCase: the juvenile and why he must get another chance at life

Afraid of being perceived by the public as not only being obstructionist in Parliament but also being against the JJ Bill, the Congress revised its position in a display of sheer hypocrisy. By Monday, Ghulam Nabi Azad - the party's leader in Rajya Sabha -- declared it was the Congress that wanted the Bill passed whereas the BJP hadn't even got it listed.

Horror in the making

This doublespeak may seem normal in Indian politics. But in this case, if the Bill is indeed passed, we will see the horrible consequences of an Act that sends children to adult prisons which are nothing but colleges of crime.

Juveniles will be affected the worst if this Juvenile Justice Bill is passed

Nobody is a winner in this game of sick politics, least of all Jyoti's parents. They won't get 'justice' as the new Act will not apply on the convict involved in the rape and murder of their daughter.

Smug politicians will again vie with each other over who got the Bill passed as is their wont. Women's safety will not improve as juveniles commit less than 5% of all rapes in the country.

Read more: Will support passage of juvenile bill: Rahul Gandhi assures Nirbhaya's parents

The biggest loser will be juveniles, who are too poor to manipulate the system and get no care from the State and society and the ignorant and unfortunate who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If indeed this regressive law is passed, I only hope that we will stop exploiting Jyoti's parents and leave them alone so they can deal with their pain without the media glare.

Read more: Crimes by juveniles on the rise, but fewer of them are heinous

First published: 22 December 2015, 2:58 IST
Valay Singh @CatchNews

Singh is a journalist and photographer. He writes on issues such as land, communalism, gender and labour.