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New Juvenile Justice Act: Two teenagers sentenced to life imprisonment for murder

Two teenagers were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a 16-year-old by a sessions court in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh in what could be the first case under the amended Juvenile Justice Act, reported The Indian Express.

The two minors allegedly stabbed Radhu Nana Palia for a meagre Rs 500. The two accused were sent to a correction home and after they were declared "physically and mentally fit" and were found to be "aware of the consequences of the offence", a charge-sheet was filed against them. They were convicted on 28 February, the report added.

Representational image. CNN News18

Representational image. CNN News18

“We sought life term because it was a heinous crime. It was not the rarest of rare cases, so we did not ask for capital punishment,” Mahesh Chandra Jain, Jhabua superintendent of police, told The Indian Express.

In the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, which was passed by Rajya Sabha in the Winter Session of Parliament and signed by the President into Act on 4 January, minors between 16 and 18 years will cease to get protection under the law and will be tried as adults if they commit heinous crimes.

The fact that one of the accused in the Delhi gang rape case was 17 years old at the time of the incident and was sentenced to three years in a special home had caused a lot of public outrage. It triggered changes in the law and the Bill was introduced in Parliament.

Before the new Juvenile Justice Act came into force, even those accused of heinous offences like rape could be tried only by Juvenile Justice Boards and, if found guilty, sent to correctional homes for not more than three years.

The new Act allows the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) to conduct a preliminary inquiry to find out whether the juvenile is indeed guilty of a heinous offence.

The board has been given the option to transfer cases of heinous offences by such children to a Childrens Court (Court of Session) after conducting preliminary assessment.

Among other key provisions of the law are — change in the word from 'juvenile' to child or child in conflict with law to remove the negative connotation associated with the word juvenile.

The revised law includes several new definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children, and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children.

It also provides enhanced clarity with regard to powers, functions and responsibilities of JJBs and Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and clear timelines for their inquiries.

Sampada Karandikar writes for Firstpost: "In accordance with the current law, juvenile delinquents who are convicted are sent to remand homes, where they spend some time (up to three years) in custodial treatment, and are released thereafter. This rehabilitation period may not be enough in cases of crimes like rape and murder as general recidivism may be likely in such cases..." She further writes: "Housing juvenile offenders along with hardened criminals in prisons always risks aggravation of their anti-social tendencies."

(With inputs from PTI)

Updated Date: Mar 01, 2017 12:53 PM

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