The Union Cabinet took three major decisions that had been in the works on Wednesday. It approved amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act (JJ Act), now empowering courts to try 16-year-olds if involved in heinous crimes such as rape; it raised the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in the defence sector to 49 per cent; and it opened up railway infrastructure to FDI.
The Cabinet, which met here under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, made it clear that though the juvenile age has been lowered to 16 for the purpose of trial, in no case can an accused juvenile involved in a heinous crime be sentenced to death or life imprisonment — irrespective of if he/she is tried under the provisions of the JJ Act or under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
Other amendments included facilitating faster adoption of children and setting up foster care homes. The Women and Child Development Ministry intends to make the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) the statutory body, which means it will have powers to regulate inter-country adoptions along with issuing guidelines on adoption and related matters.
Sources said a revised Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which was also to be taken up was deferred as the Cabinet note had been submitted late by the concerned ministry. Earlier, the bill had lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
Among other decisions, the FDI ceiling in the sensitive defence sector has been hiked to 49 per cent from the current 26 per cent, with the condition that control in joint ventures for manufacturing of defence equipment remain in Indian hands. For the railways, the Cabinet approved allowing 100 per cent FDI in areas such as high-speed train systems, suburban corridors and dedicated freight line projects implemented in PPP mode. Finance minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech for 2014-15 had announced plans to increase FDI in the defence sector and open up the cash-starved government-owned railways.