New Delhi: The government yesterday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to amend the Juvenile Justice Act to treat those aged 16 to 18 years 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- to 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 Boards and, if convicted, is sent to a juvenile home for three years.
The bill was cleared by the Cabinet on August 6.
The bill would enable other changes in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, including clarifying 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, have also been added.
Senior lawyer V K Anand, who represented two of the accused in the December 16 rape trial, criticised the government’s move.
“The government should take into account the maturity level of a child who commits a 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.
Mamta Sharma, former chairperson of National Commission for Women, said: “I am in complete favour of the amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act. Boys in the 16-18 age group are the ones who mostly get influenced by obscene content and videos on the Internet and get provoked to commit crime.”