M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet clears Bill to lower juvenile age
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Trial by children’s court
16-18 yr olds can now be tried as adults for heinous crimes
Trial only by children’s court, not adult courts as planned earlier
No jail for 16 to 18-year-old convicts until they turn 21
The Bill drops the clause that made ragging an offence, retains corporal punishment

New Delhi, August 6
The Cabinet today cleared a historic, all new juvenile justice law under which 16 to 18 year olds who commit heinous offences such as rapes and robberies can be tried as adults. Heinous offence has been defined as “an offence for which the minimum punishment under the IPC or any other law is imprisonment for seven years or more.”

The draft law says that 16 to 18 year olds even if convicted for heinous offences can’t be jailed and would have to be kept in places of safety, to be provided by state governments, until they turn 21.

The Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Bill-2014, replaces the Juvenile Justice Act-2000, in which everyone below the age of 18 was treated as a child and tried by the Juvenile Justice Board for all offences. The maximum punishment under the old law was three years in a correction home — the one meted out to the minor convict in the Delhi gang-rape case.

The government has diluted the original draft of the new JJ law which said 16 to 18 year olds could be tried as adults in normal courts. The new JJ Bill cleared by the Cabinet today clarifies that 16 to 18 year olds who commit heinous offences can only be tried by children’s courts, not adult courts.

Children’s courts are special sessions courts which were created to try cases involving minor victims of crimes under the National Commission for Protection of Children’s Act 2005. There are a few such courts today.

The new Bill, which is set for Parliament clearance, makes another important dilution. The original draft law (on which the Ministry invited comments) allowed adult trial for 16 to 18 year olds in two categories — those committing heinous offences and repeat offenders. The latter category has been dropped. The Bill clarifies that not all 16 to 18 year olds would essentially have to be tried as adults and only flexibility is being given in such cases.

Section 16 of the new Bill says: “When heinous offence is committed by a child above 16 years, the Juvenile Justice Board will conduct a preliminary inquiry regarding his mental and physical capacity to commit such an offence, ability to understand the consequence of the offence and circumstances in which he committed the offence and if satisfied refer the case to the Children’s Court for trial.”

Children’s court won’t be bound by the JJ Board’s opinion and may decide to proceed with adult trial of 16 to 18 year olds or otherwise. The draft Bill adds: “16 to 18 year old convicts would have to be kept at a place of safety and not be jailed until they turn 21. After 21 years, children’s court will see their progress and send them to a jail if they have not improved or to a registered NGO for work on probation if they have improved.”





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