Standing Committee Thumbs Down on Proposal to Treat Juveniles in Rape Cases as Adults

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New Delhi:  The Parliamentary standing committee reviewing the proposed changes in the Juvenile Justice Act has rejected the Union government’s recommendation to treat accused in cases of rape and other heinous crimes, who are 16-18 years old, as adults.

The aim of the juvenile justice system is to treat all children equally with within system, the committee said. In this respect, the judgment of the Supreme Court has been ignored and the committee, headed by Union health minister JP Nadda, said it takes a serious view of this. In fact at one point the committee says that certain clauses are in clear violation of the constitution.

The drastic changes proposed need deep introspection and it is surprising the ministry ignored major stakeholders,” the committee said in its report.

The move is expected to reignite the debate over the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act, which had been proposed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

In August, the Union Cabinet cleared the amendment bill, under which a minor above 16 years in age involved in heinous crimes could be tried in an adult court if the Juvenile Justice Board decides so. But following objections from child rights groups, the government had referred it to a standing committee.

The decision to amend the Juvenile Justice Act came after the outrage that followed the verdict in the December 2012 bus gangrape case in Delhi. One of the accused, who is a few months short of 18, was sent to an observation home for three years as per the provisions of the Act.

As the nation erupted in protest, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said 50% all sexual crimes are committed by 16-year-olds who know the Juvenile Justice Act so they can do it.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau shows 67% of juveniles charged with rape are over 16 years old.

Child rights activists, however, were vociferous about the proposed amendment, arguing that it brings a lot of arbitrariness. The Unicef said worldwide, such measures have not resulted in any lowering of crime rate.

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