After the Cabinet gave its approval to the Juvenile Justice Bill, 2014 in April this year, the Lok Sabha today passed the Bill. The Bill provides for trial of juveniles aged between 16 and 18 years to be tried as adults for heinous crimes.
However, the Bill was passed only after the government agreed to delete clause 7, which stated that "any person, who is apprehended after completing the age of 21 years, for committing any serious or heinous offence when such person was between the age of 16 to 18 years, then he shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be tried as an adult."
The Opposition opposed the aspect of age bar, saying that there are apprehensions about its misuse and also violation of children rights. Moreover, at least 42 amendments were proposed to the Bill by the government and were adopted.
However, all the amendments proposed by the Opposition were negated. The Bill, drafted after the horrific incident of December 16 Nirbhaya rape case has been justified on the ground that around 28,000 juveniles had committed various crimes in 2013 and of them, 3887 had allegedly committed heinous crimes.
Smt. Maneka Gandhi, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development also said that the Bill was “pro child” and that efforts to strike a “fine balance” have been made. She also quoted the recent Supreme Court judgment wherein the Apex Court raised the question of the numbers of juveniles committing heinous offences. She also said, "We do not want to be mean to children.... This Act is a deterrent."
She added that under the Bill, juvenile aged between 16 and 18 years will stay in a Borstal, an institution to keep juvenile offenders, till they attain an age of 21 years. Moreover, a juvenile will not be handed over the death penalty or life imprisonment.
The Bill also provides for curtailment of sentence in case the juvenile offender shows reform in the Borstal. The cases for juveniles will be tried by a Juvenile Justice Board, which will include a sociologist and a child rights activist.
Reportedly, Mrs.Maneka Gandhi said that the Bill has been prepared after extensive consultations, including with judges who tried the Nirbhaya case. Rejecting the claim that the Bill is a knee jerk reaction to the Nirbhaya case, she said, "single crime is equally worthy of punishment."
You may read more of our coverage on juvenile justice laws here.