December,22,2015: Juveniles aged 16 years and above will now be tried under laws for adults for heinous crimes as Parliament on Tuesday passed a much-expected Bill in this regard against the backdrop of a juvenile convict being released in the gangrape-cum-murder case of December 2012.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, which provides for lowering the age for trial from 18 years, was passed by Rajya Sabha with a voice vote after a walkout by Left parties, which wanted it to be sent to a Select Committee. The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha earlier.
Replying to the debate on the Bill, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said no juvenile will be sent to the jail directly. She said the Juvenile Justice Board has experts and psychologists, who will first decide whether the crime committed has been “child-like” or was it committed in an “adult frame of mind”.
She said the juvenile crime is the fastest rising segment of the crime and “You cannot have a more comprehensive, more nuanced and compassionate Bill.”
“We may not be able to do anything about the juvenile convict in the Nirbhaya case but we can deter many other boys from doing so,” Ms. Gandhi pleaded.
Ms. Gandhi said the juveniles will still have the power to appeal even if a court decides that they will go to an adult jail.
“If juvenile is sent to jail, they will be sent to a borstal until they are 21 years old, after which there will be a review,” she said.
“This is a very nuanced Bill… some people are over simplifying this Bill. If it is perceived that it was a thought-out, adult and planned crime, it would not be considered a child-like crime,” the Minister said.
After Ms. Gandhi finished speaking, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu reminded the House that the government had listed the Bill thrice this session and a number of times during the last session.
He said there was unnecessary discussion that the government was shy of bringing in the Juvenile Justice Bill.
He stressed that the Bill cannot be applied in retrospective effect.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, who initiated the discussion on the Bill, took a dig at Mr. Naidu, saying even when the House was running smoothly, he was taking panga.
Highlights of the Bill-
- The Bill replaces the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. It addresses children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
- The Bill permits juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences. Also, any 16-18 year old, who commits a lesser, i.e., serious offence, may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years.
- Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) and Child Welfare Committees (CWC) will be constituted in each district. The JJB will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult. The CWC will determine institutional care for children in need of care and protection.
- Eligibility of adoptive parents and the procedure for adoption have been included in the Bill.
- Penalties for cruelty against a child, offering a narcotic substance to a child, and abduction or selling a child have been prescribed.
- There are differing views on whether juveniles should be tried as adults. Some argue that the current law does not act as a deterrent for juveniles committing heinous crimes. Another view is that a reformative approach will reduce likelihood of repeating offences.
- The provision of trying a juvenile committing a serious or heinous offence as an adult based on date of apprehension could violate the Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (requiring that laws and procedures are fair and reasonable). The provision also counters the spirit of Article 20(1) by according a higher penalty for the same offence, if the person is apprehended after 21 years of age.
- The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires all signatory countries to treat every child under the age of 18 years as equal. The provision of trying a juvenile as an adult contravenes the Convention.
- Some penalties provided in the Bill are not in proportion to the gravity of the offence. For example, the penalty for selling a child is lower than that for offering intoxicating or psychotropic substances to a child.
- The Standing Committee examining the Bill observed that the Bill was based on misleading data regarding juveniles.
Read Bill @ LatestLaws.com-
Read Juvenile Laws @ LatestLaws.com-
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,2000
- Delhi Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules,2009
- Duties and Functional Procedures at Special Juvenile Police Unit
- Guidelines for Police Officers of Special Juvenile Police Unit
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act,2006
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act,2011
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules,2007