The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday took up for discussion the Juvenile Justice amendment bill, a day after members cutting across party lines agreed that the important legislation should be taken up immediately.
Women and Child Welfare minister Maneka Gandhi opened the discussion stating that the government is not implementing an arbitrary law to send 16-year-olds to jail, but creating another legal layer to review juvenile crimes on a case by case basis.
Present as the upper house debated the Bill were Asha Devi and Badrinath, the parents of Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old medical student who was gang-raped by six men on a moving bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012. She died in a Singapore hospital 13 days later.
“I am satisfied that the bill has been passed, and other young girls will get justice. But I am sad that my daughter did not get justice,” said Jyoti’s mother Asha Devi.
Jyoti’s parents have spearheaded the demand for a change in the law. While Jyoti’s other attackers have been sentenced to death, the youngest was released on Sunday after three years in a remand home. Now 20, he could not be tried in court for the brutal rape and murder as he was a few months short of 18 at the time of the attack.
Amendment will not affect the juvenile offender. But there have been massive protests over his release and public sentiment brought pressure on political parties as they debated the change in law.
The Congress, crucial to any vote in the Rajya Sabha because of its superior numbers, supported the bill, though many of its leaders had said they favoured sending it to a a parliamentary panel called a select committee.
The Left walked out before the vote after its suggestion that the bill be sent to a select committee for review was rejected.
“But for Nirbhaya’s parents the Juvenile Justice Bill would never have been passed by Rajya Sabha with the sense of urgency it did today,” tweeted former top cop Kiran Bedi.
“Delayed but happy that it finally got passed, said Rajyavardhan Rathore, MoS, I&B.