Cabinet proposes stricter law to curb Juvenile crime

Rajat Kain

maneka_gandhiMinors ageing between 16 to 18 years may now face trial as adults if found accused of committing heinous offense like rape, murder, dacoity, robbery, abduction and even acid attack. The Union cabinet has given nod to the proposal seeking an amendment in the Juvenile Justice Act. The amendments to the provisions of existing Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act will now be tabled before the Parliament.

In adopting the new proposals, the Union cabinet in turn overruled the recommendations made by the Parliamentary panel on the statute and its provisions.

“The Cabinet has approved amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, whereby juveniles in the age group of 16-18 can be tried under Indian Penal Code (IPC) if they are accused of heinous crimes,” I T and Communication Minster Ravi Shankar Prasad told the press after the Cabinet meeting.

This issue has assumed significance off late with the issue being brought before the Cabinet a fortnight ago where it was decided that an informal group of ministers will examine the issue.

It was the opinion of the Women and Child Development Ministry to reject the recommendations of a Parliamentary Standing Committee, and go ahead with the proposal of brining in tougher provisions in the Act.

Several ministers in the Cabinet meeting supported the proposal saying a person accused of crimes like rape should be treated as an adult, a senior minister said after the meeting.

Recently, the Supreme Court too observed that there was a need to relook at the provisions of Juvenile Justice Act in cases where the accused have committed crimes like rape, murder dacoity and acid attacks.

As per the new proposal, Juvenile Justice Board will decide if an accused ageing between 16 to 18 years old will be tried as a juvenile or as an adult, based on the merits of the case put forth by the authorities. The board will be assisted by a panel of experts in arriving at the decision.

“The new proposed Act (the amendment bill) provides that in case a heinous crime has been committed by a person in the age group of 16-18 years it will be examined by the Juvenile Justice Board to assess if the crime was committed as a ‘child’ or as an ‘adult’.

“Since this assessment will be made by the Board which will have psychologists and social experts, it will ensure that the rights of the juvenile are duly protected if he has committed the crime as a child. The trial of the case will accordingly take place as a juvenile or as an adult on the basis of this assessment,” an official statement said.

The amended bill is expected to be brought before both the Houses of the Parliament in the current budget session.