Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the juvenile justice (amendment) bill, a day after the Supreme Court dismissed a petition to block the release of the juvenile convict in the December 16 Delhi gang rape and parliamentarians cutting across party lines agreed that the important legislation should be taken up immediately.
Under the amended bill, those aged 16 and above will now be tried as adults for heinous crimes like rape. It was passed by a voice vote with Congress support after a walkout by Left parties.
The lowering of the age means that those aged 16 and above will no longer enjoy the protection under the Juvenile Justice law, under which juveniles could not be tried under normal laws of land that provides up to death for rape and murder.
Under the juvenile law till now, even those accused of heinous offences like rape could be tried only by Juvenile Justice Boards and cannot be jailed for more than three years.
Here is how the different political parties voted on the bill and what the members said during the debate:
# Centre: Replying to the debate on the bill, Union minister for women and child development, Maneka Gandhi, called the legislation a “nuanced” one and said it was needed to act as “deterrent”.
“Its a very nuanced bill. It does not mean that any 16-yer-old caught committing a heinous crime goes directly to jail. It will be the juvenile board which will decide if the crime was committed with a child like mentality or in a planned way. Only the board will decides if the child will go to jail or a correctional home.... This is not my Bill. Not of the government. This is your Bill... This bill was started by you (Congress), finished by us. Nobody would remember I piloted the bill but the fact that the Parliament had cleared the crucial legislation. Think about what you want to do about it,” said the minister.
# Congress: Supported the bill. Leader of the opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the juvenile law was first enacted by the Rajiv Gandhi dispensation. “At the time the cutoff age was 16. This was subsequently raised to 18 during the NDA government is 2000 and now they want to come back to the age that Rajiv Gandhi had set in 1986…….Had the juvenile convict in Nirbhaya case not been released, the government would not have been serious about the JJ Bill.”
# Trinamool Congress: Supported the bill. It wants focus to be on bill’s proper implementation. During an emotional reply, party MP Derek O’Brien said, “If it would’ve been my daughter on 16 December 2012, I would’ve shot the culprit.” He also said that the bill was not being pushed on sentiments but on merit.
# Samajwadi Party: Supported the bill but wanted condition of juvenile homes to be improved. Ravi Verma said, “Piece meal remedy is not going to work. We need to start from the grass roots.Our Juvenile centres are pathetic.”
# BSP: Supported but said some clauses in the bill lacks clarity.
# BJD : Supporting the bill, Dilip Kumar Tirky hoped the bill will deter juveniles from committing heineous crimes and cautioned the government to keep in mind the law would not be “misused”. He demanded much more stringent provisions for those involved in child trafficking.
# Shiv Sena : Supported the bill.
#JD (U): Supported the bill. Kahkashan Perween said the legislation should focus on converting inefficient remand home reform system into an effective system to reform children and should not focus merely on lowering the age of the juvenile.
# CPI (M): Wanted bill to be referred to the select committee. Opposed to lowering of age to 16-years. Staged a walk out before the bill was passed. Participating in the debate, Ritarbrata Banerjee of CPI-M said proper enforcement of the existing law would have served the purpose instead of moving amendments to it.
“As far as bill is concerned, more examination is required. It should be sent to a Select Committee,” he added.
# NCP: Wanted bill to be referred to the select committee. Opposed to lowering of age. Vandana Chavan said, “We are taking the shortest path to seem like we are doing something for women”.
“We have to realise the legal system cannot stand on emotions. It should be on reason. Justice Verma Committee declined to reduce the age. According to me, we really do no need this bill,” she said.
# DMK : Wanted bill to be referred to the select committee. Opposed to lowering of age.
Participating in the debate, party MP Kanimozhi said, “There is really no hurry in doing it. We have to give it enough consideration before passing. It would be really good if Government sends this to a select committee.”