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Maharashtra considers lowering juvenile age to 15 in heinous crime cases

The Centre passed a similar amendment to the Act in December 2015, which lowered the age for trial from 18 to 16 years

mumbai Updated: Dec 16, 2017 12:29 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Juvenile crime,Maharashtra,heinous crimes
People take part in a candle-light vigil in Jantar Mantar to protest against juvenile accused in the Nirbhaya case.(HT File Photo)

The Maharashtra government is considering reducing in the age of juveniles to 15 years in case of heinous crimes. The home department has been directed to prepare a report with opinions from the public health and law and judiciary departments before such an amendment is initiated.

Minister of state for home Deepak Kesarkar said the government was seriously considering lowering the age because of a rise in the number of children from this age group committing rape and murder. He said the state government would recommend the Centre incorporate this change as an amendment in Juvenile Justice Care and Protection for Children Act.

The Centre has already passed a similar amendment to the Act in December 2015, which lowered the age for trial from 18 to 16 years. “We have asked the public health department to check on aspects such as psychology, age of maturity and physical growth and submit a report. Similarly, the law and judiciary department will check on legal aspects. We will recommend the amendment to the Centre,” Kesarkar told HT.

He said the step was taken on the basis of recommendations made by a committee under retired judge CS Dharmadhikari, which suggested a slew of measures for the safety of the women. He submitted five reports to the state government during the Congress-led government.

The government’s move, however, could lead to the controversy as a section of society is against lowering the age of juveniles. An official from the home department said even if the state government recommended it to the Centre, it will be very difficult to get a nod. “It was amended the Act two years ago against the backdrop of the Nirbhaya rape case in 2012. The Centre already debated and deliberated intensely before bringing the age down to 16.”

“It would be a regressive step. First of all, India is a signatory to a United Nations agreement safeguarding juvenile rights. Secondly, by trying these children as adults, you are denying them the right to reform. If tried under the Indian Penal Code, there is no age-wise category to monitor or assess first-time offenders. They will also be denied the right to higher education, jobs and a normal life,” said Advocate Bina Tendulkar, who is former member of child welfare board.

After an amendment in the Parliament, children between 16 and 18 years, who commit crimes, can be tried as adults, but only after Juvenile Justice Board conducts a preliminary investigation to determine the severity of the offence, the circumstances and the child’s ability to understand the consequences.

First Published: Dec 15, 2017 22:53 IST