A Parliamentary Standing Committee has recommended that juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18 who have committed heinous crime such as rape and murder should not be treated as adult offenders.
In the report tabled Wednesday, the committee, while recommending that there is no need to push a juvenile to adult criminal system, turned down the Union Cabinet’s decision last August which approved the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 that provided for treating juveniles older than 16 years charged with serious crimes such as rape, as adults, provided that they won't be given the death sentence or a life term.
The bill which was introduced in the Lok Sabha last August by women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi, was subsequently referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development.
The law has been in focus since December 2012 after the brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in the national capital. One of the six accused in the case is a juvenile who is presently in a juvenile home. The incident had triggered a nationwide protest leading to demand for harsher punishment for juveniles involved in such crimes.
Justifying its stand to not treat juveniles as adult offenders, the Standing Committee, headed by BJP MP Satya Narayan Jatiya, has said that there is "no need to subject" juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age, who have committed heinous crime to a "different or adult judicial system" as it will go against Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) of the constitution.
The committee during consultation with various stakeholders including child rights activist was told that a little over one percent of total crimes in India were committed by juveniles and out of this a minuscule number comprised murder and rape. “The number was extremely few and which could be tackled under the current system,” the report states.
Currently, if an accused person is found to be a juvenile (under 18 years), he is tried by the Juvenile Justice 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 Women and Child Development ministry intends to send the bill to the cabinet for approval soon.