What happened to parental responsibility in the Delhi hit and run case?
Recently, Delhi was shaken by the Mercedes hit and run case, in which the crime was allegedly committed by a seventeen-year-old, a juvenile. After a celebration at the end of his class 12 exams, allegedly under the influence of alcohol, the boy drove rashly, caused an accident, and the tragic death of another youth. From reports it appears, that his parents consented to him driving underage, that the boy attempted to run away but surrendered subsequently, when the chauffeur (driver) withdrew his statement of admission. Again, the oddly familiar clamor for revenge, for him to be tried as an adult for his crime under the new juvenile justice law, took over. An important question needs to be asked. What happened to parental responsibility in this incident? What would have been the right thing for them to do? As hard as it would be for any parent, they should have stepped up to take full responsibility for their son’s actions. Influencing the family chauffeur (driver) into making a confession that he was driving the car, is not what they should have done. Neither, should they have tried to shield the child from facing the consequences of his actions. Presumably, the family who owned the Mercedes, is one of sound financial means and it can be assumed that they have had a reasonable amount of education. It was later discovered that during the last one year the teenager had been fined twice for speeding and once for a parking violation. Therefore, it would be fair to ask what his parents were doing when these offences were committed? Shouldn’t they be held accountable for their own inactions, and consequently, their son’s actions? Maybe this case is also about the unacceptable attitude of the wealthy who assume they are above the law. The ‘Mera beta kuch bhi kar sakta hai, (my son can do anything),’ attitude among the wealthier sections of society, which glorifies deviant behaviour, especially, that of male children, needs to be checked. Those who stay silent and allow it to prevail, are complicit in creating irresponsible young people. It is hoped that the boy and his parents will realize that they did, in many ways bring this unfortunate situation on themselves, that they show some remorse, and try their best to make good in some measure. It is an arduous path to tread, but would, in the long-term, be a better path. After all, the accident tragically snatched life of one, and has changed the lives of two families forever. Perhaps, a leaf from the story of Ram Kishore (name changed), a client of Leher, will serve as learning for parents who need to tread the long and difficult path. Ram Kishore sells battery operated emergency lights for a living. He earns an average of Rs.400/- day, and supports his family of four on that. He works hard to educate his children and just like any parent, he wants to give them the best. His youngest son, Suresh (name changed), 15 years of age, is a habitual drug and alcohol user. Suresh repeatedly steals petty items from peoples’ houses in an affluent colony near his house, and sells them to fund his addiction. Ram Kishore accepts that Suresh has a problem and that his family needs help. With his limited means, he is genuinely in search of a way to get Suresh help. In cases of petty theft, it is common that the police reprimand children at the police station and let them go. However, Ram Kishore has a number of times pleaded with the police to present Suresh before the juvenile justice board (JJB). Dealing with the police and juvenile justice system involves lengthy procedure, and costs him a day’s earnings each time the case comes up for hearing, or when he has to file applications or visit Suresh. Ram Kishore nevertheless persists. Seeing his son being taken into custody and put into the government facility for children, which does resemble a prison, breaks his heart each time, as it would do to any parent. Ram Kishore remains stoic. Once, it took him five days to gather Rs.5000/- to post bail for Suresh. He says that he needs to do whatever it takes to get Suresh’s life on track. Sometimes Ram Kishore feels beaten down by the system. One day he broke down and said, “When the same police who mercilessly beat children like my son, also allow criminals who sell drugs and other intoxicants to roam freely in our neighbourhood, sometimes that feeling of anger in me becomes too much to bear.” At the same time, he appreciates that the child protection and justice system has given Suresh a chance many times and he is prepared to go to any length. Currently, Suresh is under rehabilitation at a center of repute, which provides services to young persons with addictions. Recently, the juvenile justice system has been under the scanner and has been critiqued for having an ineffective system which does not effectively reform juveniles. While demands for improvement of the system will continue to ensure that cases of children like Suresh or the boy in the Mercedes case are addressed, before the offences committed become more serious, it needs also to be recognized that parents and families are also part of a system, and for a more effective and responsive system to evolve, society needs more parents like Ram Kishore. Parents who will take full responsibility. It means making time to address issues, not letting mistakes pass, not glorifying mistakes, accepting that a child needs help, going out to get it and even navigating through the juvenile justice system. The Mercedes hit and run case, should serve as a wake-up call. Especially, for parents who are wealthy, educated and for whom daily survival is not a challenge.
Photo Credits : Unknown
Words By : Nicole Rangel
Nicole Rangel is the Co-founder of Leher