New Delhi, Aug 12 IANS | 4 months ago

The government Tuesday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to amend the Juvenile Justice Act to treat 16-18-year-olds as adults when involved in heinous crimes.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Children) Bill 2014 was introduced by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi.

The amendment will empower Juvenile Justice (JJ) Boards to take a call on whether to treat 16-18-year-olds as adults if they are involved in heinous crimes.

Such juveniles may face a jail term, if convicted, but will not be awarded life terms or the death penalty.

Currently, if an accused is determined to be a juvenile (under 18 years), he is tried by JJ Board and, if convicted, is sent to a juvenile home for a period of three years.

The bill was cleared by the Cabinet Aug 6.

The bill would enable other changes in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, including bringing in more clarity in the role and procedures of statutory structures such as Child Welfare Committees and Juvenile Justice Boards, and strengthening punitive measures for offences committed against children.

New offences such as corporal punishment, ragging and using a child for vending, peddling, carrying, supplying or smuggling any intoxicating liquor, narcotic drug or psychotropic substance and streamlining and strengthening measures for adoption, including providing statutory status to the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) have also been added.

The amendment makes it mandatory for all child care institutions to get registered or pay a stringent penalty in case of non-compliance.

The amendment has found both support and opposition.

"Now, that the bill is placed before the parliament, we expect the government to ensure measures to prevent children slipping into crime. Government cannot wash its hands of responsibility just by passing the bill," said Sanjay Gupta, director of CHETNA an NGO which works in the field of child rights.

Similarly, senior lawyer V.K. Anand who represented two of the Dec 16 accused during trial said that it was not the right decision.

"Decision should be taken on the maturity level of child. The government should take into account the maturity level of child who commits any crime. Reduction of age will not serve any purpose. Ninety-nine per cent of children are innocent and they will suffer from this decision," said Anand.

Former chairman of National Commission for Women, Mamta Sharma, told IANS: "I am in complete favor of the amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act. The boys of 16-18 year age group are the one who mostly get influenced by the obscene content and videos on the Internet and get provoked to commit crime."

Sharma added that the amendments should have been done much earlier.

Centre for Public Policy (CPP), a Delhi based think tank, supports the government's decision.

"Such an initiative of government to restore the rights of a victim will prove highly beneficial in setting benchmark for juveniles who take the shield of the word 'minor age' and commit unlawful and inhuman crimes," said a statement from CPP.

(Posted on 12-08-2014)

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