Should the New Delhi Teenage Rapist Be Tried As An Adult?

On August 19, the trial of the unnamed 18-year-old suspect in the now infamous 2012 New Delhi gang rape will begin. Of the six alleged rapists, four are awaiting trial as adults, one has died, and the other is the aforementioned teenager who will be tried as a minor, due to the fact that he was 17 at the time of the incident.

The incident triggered an understandably strong reaction in India sparking a debate over women’s rights as well as massive protests against the six alleged rapists. Public pressure called for the death penalty, and many have questioned the decision to try the 18-year-old as a minor.

In the Indian court, a minor would be eligible for a maximum of only three years, while the other adult males are eligible for capital punishment. The International Business Times reported that the most brutal of all the alleged attackers was the minor, who raped the female victim twice and removed her intestines. Much public opinion has discussed the possibility of trying the juvenile as an adult, making him eligible for the death penalty.

Three of the six men plead not guilty in court with their lawyer claiming that, “The victims are responsible for the assault because they should not have been using public transportation and, as an unmarried couple, they should not have been on the streets at night." He went further to say that, “Until today, I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady. Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect." He added that the male companion of the victim was at fault because it was his duty to protect her. This is a horrific defense that should anger anyone who believes in any level of gender equality.

The public has been vocal, with many calling for the death penalty to be used in such case. The penalty has the potential to be used as long as the prosecution can sufficiently prove that the alleged rapists committed murder. Effectively, the prosecution will have prove that the men attempted to kill the victim, rather than just attempting to injure her. The debate that lingers is whether the juvenile is to be tried as an adult.

I hold two separate opinions about the juvenile: One is personal, and the other is professional.

In my professional opinion, the court must stand with what is done historically for teenage rapists. There should not be an inconsistency simply due to the high publicity this case has received or for the fear of public outrage. The court needs to decide based upon the historical precedents not on public pressure. To make a judgement just to suit the public, would potentially invalidate the entire Indian Penal Code itself.

But my personal opinion is that a 17-year-old is capable of knowing the monstrosity of his crimes. As a 17-year-old myself, I believe that he was fully capable of understanding the implications of his actions, and should be treated like an adult and sentenced like an adult. Seventeen is not an age of innocence, and this was no innocent man.