Minors accused of heinous crime to face trial as adult

Rajat Kain

Lok_sabhaThe law seeking juveniles between the age group of 16 to 18 years accused of committing heinous crimes to be tried as adults is passed by Lok Sabha. The lower house passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 on Thursday amid the opposition from some members of the Congress party.

On 22nd April, the cabinet had cleared the amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act that proposed the minors ageing between 16 to 18 years accused of committing heinous crimes like rape, murder, dacoity, robbery, abduction and even acid attack to be put to trial as adults. The bill was subsequently tabled before Lok Sabha earlier this month.

While debating on the bill, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had said “an increase in heinous crimes committed by children was one of the reasons that necessitated the new bill”.

As per amended law, the 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 Board which will have the psychologists and social experts will ensure that the rights of juvenile are duly protected if he has committed the crime as a child, the government emphasised while defending the bill as it faced stiff opposition from the Opposition.

But raising serious concerns over the new statutory provisions of the bill, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said “It is morally, legally, constitutionally, ethically and emotionally wrong to treat children as adults”. Calling the amended Juvenile act as “badly” written and that the government was “over-reacting to a handful of cases”, Tharoor said “laws cannot be based on one instance alone. Laws cannot be made to appease to popular political sentiment. The government was choosing political expediency over justice and it was an inhuman idea”.

Earlier, while adopting the new proposals, the cabinet had overruled the recommendations made by the Parliamentary panel on the statute and its provisions. As several ministers in the cabinet meeting supported the proposal saying a person accused of crimes like rape should be treated as an adult, the amendments were incorporated.

Recently, the Supreme Court too had 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.