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Posted at: Mar 30, 2015, 9:28 PM; last updated: Mar 30, 2015, 9:28 PM (IST)

Govt to go ahead with law treating juveniles as adults in grave crimes

Ignores parliamentary panel’s disapproval

  • The government has rejecting the recommendations of a parliamentary committee which disapproved of treating juveniles accused of heinous offences as adults
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Bill, 2015 with minor changes suggested by the panel has now been sent to the Law Ministry for vetting
  • It is expected to get the Cabinet clearance this week after which it can be reintroduced in Parliament once the Budget Session recess ends

How the law will work

  • The new Juvenile Justice Act seeks to replace the 2000 Actin which the maximum punishment offenders can get is three years in a child remand home
  • Once convicted for a heinous crime, the child will be lodged in a place of safety until he turns 21
  • At 21, he will be examined for reformation. Only if there's evidence that he hasn't reformed will he go to an adult jail. The new law also bars death penalty for children

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 29

Rejecting the recommendations of a parliamentary committee which disapproved of treating juveniles accused of heinous offences as adults, the Central Government has decided to go ahead with the new law that allows 16 to 18 year olds guilty of grave offences to face trial as adults.

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi in an exclusive interview to The Tribune today said the government was convinced of the necessity of the new law.

“We are going ahead with the law. I don’t think the parliamentary committee understood what we are saying. Around 85 per cent people who responded during consultations on the new law said 16 to 18 year olds committing grave offences should be tried as adults and get the harshest punishment. But we took a middle path and brought safeguards into the new law. A juvenile will face trial as an adult only when it is proved that he committed the crime with an adult and not a childish mind,” Maneka said when asked about the Centre’s stand on the report of Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD which rejected harsher trial of juveniles. The report was submitted to Parliament this February.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Bill, 2015 with minor changes suggested by the parliamentary panel has now been sent to the Law Ministry for vetting. It is expected to get the Cabinet clearance this week after which it can be reintroduced in Parliament once the Budget Session recess ends.

The committee had made its recommendation arguing that the percentage of violent crimes against juveniles in 2012 comprised only 15.6 per cent of the IPC crimes they committed including 990 murders and 1,175 rapes.

But Maneka said: “I would ask the committee what numbers of rapes and murders would make these crimes worthy of being checked? For me one is enough. The US makes 12 year olds responsible for heinous crimes accountable. All we are saying is we need a new law to address heinous crimes by children. This law has safeguards. The Juvenile Justice Board will decide if the child committed the grave offence with an adult mind and criminal intent. If yes, he will face trial in a system away from the existing juvenile system which has failed to curb violent crimes by juveniles,” Maneka said.

The minister said there was now ample evidence that many juveniles committed heinous crimes with the knowledge of the leniency of existing laws. “That’s what happened in the Nirbhaya case. We need to check that. But our safeguards will protect children’s interests. Even when the JJB agrees to try the child as an adult, he will stand trial not in the normal adult system but in children’s courts,” Maneka said. Children’s courts are sessions courts established under the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 to try people accused of crimes against children.

“Once convicted, the child will be lodged in a place of safety until he turns 21 years. He won’t be sent to an adult jail. Even when he turns 21, he will be examined for reformation. Only if there’s evidence that he hasn’t reformed will he go to an adult jail. The new law also bars death penalty for children,” Maneka said.

The new JJ Act seeks to replace the JJ Act, 2000 under which the maximum punishment juvenile offenders can get is three years in a child remand home. “The JJ Act, 2000 is ill equipped to tackle child offenders in the 16 to 18 year age group,” the government said. Recent cases involving juvenile offenders are Delhi gang rape, Shakti Mills gang rape, Guwahati rape and most recently a Gurgaon murder allegedly committed by a boy who had killed a teenager as a juvenile.

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