The much-debated Juvenile law amending the existing provisions to allow children between 16-18 years to be tried as adults in heinous crime cases has been passed by Rajya Sabha. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, was passed amid unanimity across the political parties on Tuesday, with CPI (M) being the lone exception to stage a walk out demanding the bill be referred to the select committee. The Bill was already passed by the Lok Sabha on May 7, 2015.
The legislation, amending the provisions in the JJ Act, was debated on the floor of the Upper House against the backdrop of the release of the youngest convict in December 16 gangrape case, who was tried as a juvenile. The Bill will now be sent to the President for his assent.
Even the parents of the late victim, who have been pressing for stricter laws to deal with juveniles involved in heinous cimes, witnessed the house proceedings from the visitor’s gallery.
Earlier, moving the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill for consideration and passage, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi termed the legislation as “compassionate” and comprehensive in nature.
Arguing that juvenile crime is the fastest rising segment of the crime, she said, “You cannot have a more comprehensive, more nuanced and compassionate Bill” as she reached out to the principal opposition party.
Meanwhile, several parties, including NCP, CPI(M) and DMK, pushed for sending the bill to a Select Committee, arguing that further examination was required to decide whether the age for punitive action should be reduced to 16 years from the current level of 18 years.
Explaining the nuances of the bill, Maneka Gandhi said no juvenile will be sent to the jail directly and they will still be able to appeal even if a court decides that they will go to an adult jail. According to the legislation, the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) 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”.
“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 making it clear that they will still not be spending time with hardened criminals.
Beginning the debate on the bill, Leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad said that for the last few days, the country has been discussing the issue and the biggest question is about the age.
“From politicians to writers, everyone is divided on the issue and many good arguments can be put forward in support of as well as against the cut off age of 16,” he said adding there should be separate facility for those juveniles who are sent to jail and they should not be put up with hardened criminals.
“It should not be that instead of stopping crimes, more criminals are born,” the leader of the Opposition in the Upper House said.
Mr. Azad further sought that the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) should be more broad based and that there should be special classes for those who are sent to jail so that they do not feel that their life has ended.
On the other hand, Samajwadi Party MP, Ravi Prakash Verma said that piecemeal remedy will not work and opined that tougher laws enacted in the past have failed to check the crime from happening again.
Nominated member Anu Aga too demanded that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee for examination as lowering the age of a juvenile from 18 years to 16 years will be a step in backward direction and would be considered a knee-jerk reaction only.
Speaking on the bill, JD (U) member Kahkashan Perween said the legislation should focus on converting inefficient remand home reform system into an effective system to reform children and should not focus merely on lowering the age of the juvenile.
(With inputs from the PTI)