Government clarifies that juvenile not to be awarded life term, death sentence

Government clarifies that juvenile not to be awarded life term, death sentence

According to a proposed amendment of the Juvenile Justice Act, ensuring that the government steers clear of violating the United Nations Convention on Rights of Child (UNCRC), life imprisonment or capital punishment will not be awarded to juveniles above 16 years of age who are guilty of murder, rape, acid attack or gang rape.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and child rights activists has criticized the women and child development (WCD) ministry for being against international trends and in violation of the UN convention that India has signed.  According to the ministry, longer prison term than the three years mandated under the Juvenile Justice Act should be awarded to juveniles who fall between the age bracket of 16-18 years and are guilty of heinous crimes or found to be repeat offenders of crimes like kidnapping, trafficking, attempt to murder or outraging the modesty of a women and the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) will decide whether the juvenile will be tried under Indian Penal Code or the Juvenile Justice Act.

According to women and child development Minister Krishna Tirath, the age of the child is not to be lowered, however, considering the rising involvement of juveniles in crimes a decision to amend the law has been taken so that Juvenile Justice Board can take a decision on whether a juvenile can be tried under IPC based on mitigating circumstances. Along with the added proviso that the Board will conduct this assessment within a month, the proposed amendment says that "nothing contained in any other law for the time being in force, the provisions of this act shall apply to all cases involving detention, prosecution, penalty or sentence of imprisonment of juveniles in conflict with law under such other law". The proposal has been sent to the ministries of law and home affairs for consultations.

The assessment will be based on mitigating circumstances which will be brought out by the social investigation report, nature, seriousness of the offence and the juvenile's culpability and ability to understand the consequences of the offence committed. The amendment also clarifies that no capital punishment or life imprisonment would be awarded to juveniles.

According to NCRB data, between 2002 and 2012 there has been an increase by over 86% in the involvement of juveniles in murder while an increase by 142% in the incidents of rape by juveniles during the same period. Overall, last year about 1.2% of the total crime in the country was committed by juveniles.