Rejecting the recommendations of a parliamentary committee, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared a proposal to try juveniles in the age group of 16 to 18 years who are accused of heinous crimes under laws for adults.
“The Cabinet has approved amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, whereby juveniles in the age group of 16-18 years can be tried under IPC if they are accused of heinous crimes,” said Communication Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad after the Cabinet meeting.
An amendment to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill 2014 will be introduced in the current session of Parliament.
The proposed law states that if a person aged between 16-18 years is accused of a heinous crime, the case will be examined by the Juvenile Justice Board to assess if the crime was committed as a “child” or as an “adult”.
“Since this assessment will be done by the board, which will have psychologists and social experts, it will ensure that the rights of the juvenile are duly protected if he has committed the crime as a child. The trial of the case will accordingly take place as a juvenile or as an adult on the basis of this assessment,” said the government.
The provision for a two-stage assessment or trial is aimed at bringing about a balance that is sensitive to the rights of the child, protective of his legitimate interests and yet conscious of the need to deter crimes, especially brutal crimes against women.
The proposed amendment further reinforces these principles through introduction of a new provision that disallows protection from disqualification in case a juvenile is tried and convicted under the adult system, the government said.
Other major amendments include removal of Clause 7 that relates to trial of a person above the age of 21 years as an adult for committing any serious or heinous offence when he was aged 16-18 years, and enhancing the period of preliminary inquiry by the Juvenile Justice Board in case of heinous offences committed by juveniles aged 16-18 years.
The new legislation also proposes to streamline the adoption procedures for orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children by establishing “a statutory status for the Child Adoption Resources Authority (CARA)”.
The legislation further proposes several rehabilitation and social integration measures for institutional and non-institutional children. It provides for sponsorship and foster care as completely new measures in addition to providing for mandatory registration of all institutions engaged in providing child care. New offences, including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, use of children by militant groups, and offences against disabled children have also been incorporated in the proposed legislation.
Among the other amendments are: increasing the reconsideration period for surrender of children by parents or guardians; enhancing the period for inter-country adoption in case the child is not given for domestic adoption; assigning the role of designated authority to monitor the implementation of the Bill to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; and making the central and state governments responsible for spreading awareness on the provisions of the Bill.