Lok Sabha passes amendments to Juvenile Justice act, to face Rajya Sabha test
Lok Sabha on Thursday passed amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2014 which will allow children in the 16-18 age group to be tried as adults if they commit heinous crimes.
The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2014 which will allow children in the 16-18 age group to be tried as adults if they commit heinous crimes. The bill will now be debated in Rajya Sabha, where the government despite lacking a majority in that House, will be hoping it is passed.
The amendments were prepared in the backdrop of public outcry over the Delhi gangrape case of 2012 in which a juvenile accused received a lighter punishment because of his age.
On Wednesday, several members in Lok Sabha opposed the controversial amendment that provides for treating juveniles between the age of 16 - 18 years on par with adults for crimes such as rape.
Rehabilitation and not retribution should be the policy, said many members, while expressing their concern over the amendments to the bill.
The House agreed to pass the bill after a clause that any 16-18 year old, who commits a less serious offence, may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years, was deleted.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had said in case a heinous crime has been committed by a person in the age group of 16-18 years it would be examined by a Juvenile Justice Board to assess if the crime was committed as a 'child' or as an 'adult'.
The trial of the juvenile, whether as an adult or child, would depend upon the opinion of the board which would comprise psychologists and social experts, she said.
The henious crimes, she said, would include those offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which attract jail term of over seven years.
The bill, she further said, proposed to modify the norms of adoption to ensure that uncared children find a suitable home as early as possible. As per the proposal, NRIs wanting to adopt a child will be treated at par with resident Indians.
Although the lawmakers did not have problems with the provisions relating to adoption, they were divided over the issue of trying children between 16-18 years of age involved in heinous crimes as adults. Among those who supported the bill in Parliament were Prahlad Patel (BJP) and Tathagata Satpathy (BJD) who argued that punishment should be linked to the gravity of crime not the age.
Opposing the Bill, Shashi Tharoor (Congress) said it was violative of the UN conventions of children and against the Constitution.
The justice system should focus on "rehabilitation and not retribution", he said, adding it would be "emotionally, ethically and morally" wrong to punish a child, who does not have access to basic facilities, like an adult.
There is no scientific system of determining the age of a children and in certain cases it is done by looking at the child, he said, and quipped "General (VK) Singh knows it."
Singh, who is Minister of State for External Affairs, was involved in a prolonged legal battle over the issue of his age when he was the Army Chief four years back.
Speaking on the issue, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said as an individual he feels that if a person is capable of committing a heinous crime of rape then the punishment will have to be in accordance to the crime.
Vinod Kumar (TRS) opposed the trial of juvenile between 16 to 18 years of age as adults, saying they need education and moral classes as most of them committing crimes come from economically backward families.
Quoting data, he said crime committed by juvenile as a percentage of total crime is just 1.2 percent.
"In present circumstances educating them and giving them moral classes will help control such crimes. But if he is tried like adults in the age of 16-18 years, it would have bad impact on their psychology," Kumar said.
Badaruddoza Khan (CPIM) said the lowering of age of trial of juvenile for heinious crimes is not in accordance with the international laws.
"The amendment with regard to lowering of age is short-sighted, unjust and against public interest," Khan said.
He had suggested that the provisions of the Bill be such that the juvenile be allowed to consult with psychologists to prevent them from repeating the mistake.
P Srinivasa Reddy (YSRCP) said putting the 16-18 years olds in jail along with adults would make them hardend criminals.
Supporting the Bill for the changes it brought about in adoption laws, Supriya Sule (NCP) cautioned the government against drafting the amendments out of emotion.
"The law comes in the backdrop of the gangrape. For one Nirbhaya rape, you cannot make a law out of emotion... You need to look into your international commitments as well," she said.
Sule said she stands in dilemma whether to support the Bill or not and demanded to know from the Minister what is the roadmap of the NDA government with regard to juvenile age.
"We need to look into the psychology aspect. Every child, although he makes a mistake, deserves a second chance," she said.
Dharamvir Gandhi (AAP) said that lowering the age to 16 years for trial of juvenile would be injustice to the child as a child of that age is unable to comprehend a situation.
"The age should not be brought down. It will be gross injustice to the child and will be violation of international laws," he said.
With PTI inputs
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