The Union cabinet on Wednesday cleared amendments to the juvenile justice bill to try offenders in the 16 -18 age group accused of rape and murder as adults, a pending demand since the December 2012 gang-rape in Delhi where a teenager was among the culprits.
The amended Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, however, exempts underage offenders from the death sentence or a life term.
Under the existing set-up, such offenders are tried by the Juvenile Justice Board and sent to a correction home for three years if convicted.
The cabinet also approved introduction of a contentious new provision in the bill that debars juveniles who have been convicted under the adult system from contesting elections and doing government jobs.
The original provision provided blanket protection from disqualification after the underage convict has served the sentence. The section said relevant records of a conviction should be destroyed after the juvenile is out of jail so that life could be started afresh on a clean slate.
This provision was dropped after IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad opposed it when the bill came up for cabinet approval on April 8, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to refer it back to an informal panel of ministers, headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley, for further discussion.
Sources said the Jaitley panel met on Tuesday and agreed to remove the blanket protection from disqualification after Prasad again contested the leniency in the clause.
The women and child welfare ministry is set to introduce the bill in this Parliament session to make it into a law.