India’s opposition said yesterday it would seek tougher punishments for juveniles after the first verdict in the New Delhi gang-rape case saw a teenager sentenced to three years’ detention, sparking widespread anger.
The rape and murder of a 23-year-old student by six attackers on a moving bus last December sparked nationwide protests and led to reforms that mandated longer sentences for adult sex offenders.
Sushma Swaraj, opposition leader in the lower house of parliament, said she would introduce a bill this week to amend the law for juveniles.
“This meager punishment of just three years does not do justice,” Swaraj wrote on Twitter. “The sentence must commensurate with the gravity of the offense irrespective of the age of the offender.”
On Saturday a juvenile court in New Delhi sentenced the only under-age suspect in the gang — who was 17 at the time of the crime — to three years in a correctional facility.
This was the maximum sentence under Indian law, which treats all under-18s as children and seeks to reform rather than punish them.
“TRAVESTY: December 16 teen rapist ‘gets away’ with murder,” a headline in the tabloid Mail Today read, summing up the mood.
The convicted teen will spend about 28 months in a juvenile detention center, having already spent about eight months in custody awaiting the verdict.
“He can watch TV, play games while doing time,” the Hindustan Times reported, while pointing out that police sources had earlier described the teenager as “the most brutal” of the six attackers.
The Times of India said the female victim of the gang-rape had “been denied justice” by the juvenile court.
Subramanian Swamy, a politician from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said the teenager “should have been executed” and he intended to file an appeal against Saturday’s court order.
Swamy has already lodged a petition in the Supreme Court challenging India’s juvenile law for not taking the gravity of a crime into account during sentencing.
“It’s ridiculous to think you can reform a person who has committed a heinous crime, who has raped and murdered a young woman in such a brutal fashion,” he added.