Overruling the recommendations of a parliamentary panel, government on Wednesday went ahead with a proposal to try juveniles in the age group of 16 to 18 years accused of heinous crimes under laws for adults.
“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 if they are accused of heinous crimes,” I T and Communication Minster Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.
The issue was brought before the cabinet a fortnight ago but was dropped from the agenda at the last moment and it was decided that an informal group of ministers will examine the issue.
Rejecting the recommendations of a parliamentary standing committee, the women and child development ministry had decided to go ahead with the proposal.
The Supreme Court had also recently 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.
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.
“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 also proposes to streamline adoption procedures for orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children. It establishes a statutory status for the Child Adoption Resources Authority.
The legislation proposes several rehabilitation and social integration measures for institutional and non-institutional children. It also provides for sponsorship and foster care as completely new measures.
Mandatory registration of all institutions engaged in providing child care is also in the offing.
New offences, including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, use of children by militant groups and offences against disabled children have also been incorporated in the proposed legislation.
The major amendments include removal of clause 7 that relates to trial of a person above the age of 21 years as an adult for committing any serious or heinous offence when the person was between the ages of 16-18 years; enhancing the period of preliminary inquiry by the Juvenile Justice Board in case of heinous offences committed by children in the age group of 16-18 years; increasing the reconsideration period for surrender of children by parents or guardians; enhancing the period for inter-country adoption in case the child is not given for domestic adoption; assigning the role of designated authority to monitor the implementation of the bill to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and making the central and state governments responsible for spreading awareness on the provisions of the bill.
The amended bill will be brought before parliament again in the ongoing budget session, official sources said.