The Rajya Sabha took up for discussion the juvenile justice amendment bill on Tuesday, as parents of the 2012 gang rape victim witnessed the deliberations in Parliament a day after members from across parties agreed the legislation should be discussed immediately.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, provides for the trial of those between 16 and 18 years as adults for heinous offences. Anyone between the ages of 16 and 18 who commits a less serious offence may be tried as an adult if he is apprehended after he attains the age of 21.
Giving out the bill’s details, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said borstals -- custodial institutions for young offenders -- would be set up under the proposed law to house juveniles accused of heinous crime.
“They (juvenile convicts) will not stay with adults in jails meant for adults... They will be kept in borstals. It does not exist at present... it will be created,” the minister said.
The convicted juvenile will stay in borstals till they attain the age of 21, and will be evaluated to decide whether they should be released. “There will be a review... if they still have a criminal bent of mind, they will serve the complete sentence,” said the minister.
The youngest offender in the December 16 gang rape case was released on Sunday after the Supreme Court dismissed the Delhi Commission for Women’s plea, saying he couldn’t be detained any longer under existing laws.
The decision came after a weekend of protests in the Capital as the government faced growing calls for harsher penalties for juvenile criminals.
The convict was moved out of a correctional facility to an NGO-run shelter on December 9 due to safety concerns as he is now no longer under police protection. His criminal record has also been expunged according to legal provisions and his identity will not be disclosed.
On Tuesday, Maneka Gandhi said juvenile crime was being encouraged by the existing law.
“Juveniles’ involvement in crime is increasing the fastest. Children walk into police stations and say we have murdered... send us to a juvenile home,” the minister said.
Pointing out that even children committed crime against other children, she wondered: “Are we going to protect the victim or the criminal?”
“It (the bill) will stop a 16-year-old from saying ‘I have burnt a jhuggi. Send me to juvenile justice (board)’. ‘Or I have raped, murdered, send me to JJ...’,” Maneka Gandhi said.
Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi earlier met the parents at his residence on Tuesday, assuring them that the bill will be passed in Parliament. Naqvi also said he had spoken to other parties to ensure their support in passing the bill.
The bill was introduced 12 times in the monsoon session but was not passed in the Rajya Sabha due to multiple disruptions, said BJP leader Naqvi.
“Even in winter session, we have listed it for five times including today. We hope that it will be passed today so that a strong and effective law is in place to deal with heinous criminals, whatever age they may be of,” he said.
(With inputs from agencies)