New Delhi: The central government on Wednesday moved the Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha which, if passed, will allow children in the 16-18 age group to be tried as adults if they commit heinous crimes.
The amendment to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill 2014 has been moved keeping in mind the increasing number of serious offences being committed by teenagers in the 16-18 years' age group, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said while moving the bill.
The proposed legislation, which would replace the existing Juvenile Justice Act 2000, clearly defines and classifies offences as petty, serious and heinous, and defines differentiated processes for each category.
The amendment bill further reinforces these principles through introduction of a new provision that disallows the protection from disqualification in cases where a juvenile is tried and convicted under the adult system.
The ministry of women and child development had introduced the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill 2014 in the Lok Sabha in August 2014.
The bill had been referred to the standing committee which had recommended keeping the juvenile age at 18 years.
Participating in the debate after the bill was introduced, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said: "A majority of children in conflict with law come from illiterate and poor families. These are the ones you are trying to punish instead of giving them education."
He claimed that the entire concept of prevention of presumption of innocence has been done away by with.
Trinamool Congress MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar said police who are going to investigate should have women. "We should also have child psychiatrists in the juvenile justice boards."
Biju Janata Dal's Tathagat Satpathy said care and protection should be of prime importance and not retribution which one should look at.
"What is it that is causing the child to adopt a path of criminality, we should explore that," he said adding that implementation of the law has been the biggest problem.
"Not a single child who is innocent should be punishment because of the ambiguity in our laws," Satpathy said. "District boards should have the freedom to judge each and every case on individual merit."
Moves to amend the juvenile justice act had begun immediately after the December 16, 2012, gang rape of a young girl in a moving bus in Delhi in which one of the culprits was a juvenile.