The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought to know the stand of the Centre on a public interest litigation seeking a direction to amend the Juvenile Justice Act to exclude children committing heinous offences such as rape and murder from its purview.
The PIL comes amid apprehension that one of the six accused in the Delhi gang rape case, who is a juvenile, might get away with a lighter punishment. As per police accounts, he was the most brutal among the six who assaulted a 23-year-old woman on board a bus on December 16.
"Let the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) take notice and get instructions in the matter," a bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice V K Jain said. The bench admitted the PIL filed by one Shweta Kapoor, seeking the Centre's reply by February 14.
ASG Rajeev Mehra told the court that amendments were being proposed and meeting within ministries and between Union government and chief ministers were taking place to discuss the amendments. "Further details will be placed before the court after taking necessary instructions," he said.
"A separate committee headed by former chief justice of India justice J S Verma is already working on recommendations for changes required in the anti-rape law, including harsher punishment for a juvenile who commits rape," he said.
Quoting a survey, the PIL said 67 per cent of all juvenile criminals arrested in the past three years belong to the 16-18 years age bracket. It also said there was a 188 per cent increase in crimes by juveniles since 2001.
Eminent child rights activists, however, recently wrote to justice Verma committee against any such amendments. They pointed out that the focus of the JJ act is to give the offender a chance to reform. They said instead of tinkering with the law, the urgent need was to strengthen the approach of protection and preventive care for children.