The women and child development (WCD) ministry will be sending an amended draft juvenile justice bill to the law ministry this week, moving the government a step closer to treating minors accused of heinous crimes — such as rape — at par with adults.
The proposed changes would make underage offenders aged between 16 and 18 years eligible for jail terms but not the death penalty or life sentence. The juvenile justice board will decide if the case should be tried by a normal court. HT had reported about the changes to the JJ Bill on June 20.
An accused juvenile is currently tried by the board and, if convicted, faces a maximum of three years in a juvenile home. An adult faces up to 10 years in prison for rape and up to life in prison for gang rape.
Sources said law minister Ravishankar Prasad has assured WCD minister Maneka Gandhi of immediate clearance of the draft bill. Once cleared, it would be moved for cabinet approval, but is unlikely to be introduced in Parliament during the ongoing monsoon session.
The juvenile law came under scrutiny after the 2012 December 16 gang rape case. One of the offenders was underage and serving a three-year sentence in a juvenile home.