Those under the age of 18 years accused of committing heinous crimes could soon be facing the court as adults after the Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill. The Bill paves the way for children in the 16-18 age group accused of heinous crimes to be tried as adults and face a stricter punishment.
The Bill states 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 a Juvenile Justice Board to assess if the crime was committed as a ‘child’ or as an ‘adult’.
Lok Sabha passed the Bill after the government agreed to delete Clause 7 which said that “any person, who is apprehended after completing the age of 21 years, for committing any serious or heinous offence when such person was between the age of 16 to 18 years, then he shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be tried as an adult.”
The trial of the case will take place accordingly by the board which will consist of psychologists and social experts. The legislation, which would replace the existing Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, was proposed in view of increasing number of serious offences being committed by persons in the age group of 16-18 years.
According to data from National Crime Records Bureau, crimes by juveniles in the age group of 16-18 years have increased, especially in certain categories of heinous crimes. The number of murder cases against juveniles rose from 531 in 2002 to 1,007 in 2013. Similarly, cases of rape and assault with intent to outrage the modesty of women have gone up from 485 and 522 in 2002 to 1,884 and 1,424 in 2013 respectively.
In 2013, 933 cases of kidnapping and abduction were registered against juveniles, which was 704 in 2012. According to Women and Child Development Ministry, more than 250 civil society organisations, individuals and experts had given their comments on the draft Bill which were taken into consideration before giving it a final shape.
New offences, including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, use of children by terrorist groups and offences against disabled children have also been incorporated in the proposed legislation.
The amended Bill also proposes to streamline adoption procedures for orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children by making mandatory registration of all institutions engaged in providing child care.
The legislation proposes several rehabilitation and social integration measures for institutional and non- institutional children. It provides for sponsorship and foster care as completely new measures.
At least 42 official amendments were moved by the government to the bill which were adopted, while all the amendments moved by opposition members like Shashi Tharoor (Congress) and N K Premchandran (RSP) were negated.