The union cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act which paves the way for children in the age group of 16-18 years to be tried as adults if they commit heinous crimes.
The amendment to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill 2014 was approved at a meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Keeping in view the increasing number of serious offences being committed by persons in the age group of 16-18 years and recognizing the rights of the victims as being equally important as the rights of juveniles, special provisions were proposed to tackle heinous offences committed by individuals in this age group,” an official statement said.
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 statement said “this unique instrument of a two-stage assessment or trial brings 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 the protection from disqualification in cases where a juvenile is tried and convicted under the adult system,” it said.
“The amendments to the draft bill strike a fine balance between the demands of the stakeholders asking for continued protection of rights of juveniles and the popular demand of citizens in the light of increasing incidence of heinous crimes by young boys”.
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.
The new legislation also proposes to streamline adoption procedures for orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children. It establishes a statutory status for the Child Adoption Resources Authority (CARA).
It also proposes several rehabilitation and social integration measures for institutional and non-institutional children and provide for sponsorship and foster care as completely new measures.