Even as the debate to amend the existing law dealing with underage offenders gains momentum outside Parliament, the passage of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill that seeks to treat boys between 16 to 18 years as adults in heinous crimes is set to get further delayed.
The bill is up for yet another review by a parliamentary panel. At the all-party meeting on Friday, the government and the Opposition agreed to refer the bill to a Rajya Sabha select Committee, delaying its passage in the ongoing winter session of Parliament. The select committee will give its report during the 2016 budget session.
Earlier, in February the same bill was referred to a Parliament standing committee headed by BJP MP Satyanarayan Jatiya.
The Jatiya panel recommended that there is no need to push juveniles to adult criminal system, turning down the Union Cabinet’s decision last August which approved the bill that provided for treating juveniles older than 16 years as adults, provided that they won’t be given the death sentence or a life term.
The Women and Child Development Ministry had rejected the panel’s recommendations.
Currently, if an accused person is found to be a juvenile (under 18 years) he is tried by the JJ Board and, if convicted, is sent to a juvenile home for a period of three years. An adult would face up to 10 years in prison for rape and up to life in prison for gang rape.
The law covering juvenile has been in focus since December 2012 after the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in the Capital.
One of the six accused in the case is a juvenile who is currently in a juvenile home and is set to be released on December 20.
The incident had triggered a nationwide protest leading to demand for harsher punishment for juveniles involved in such crimes.
Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said that she regrets the fact that Parliament could not pass the bill.
Asked if she is disappointed that the juvenile convict in the December 2012 gang rape case will be released on Sunday, the Bharatiya Janata Party member of Parliament said, “I am not disappointed as the juvenile convict is being released under the existing provision of the law that allows such convicts to go free after three years. I am more disappointed that the parliament could not clear the crucial legislation.”