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Heinous crimes: Amendment proposes trying 16-year-olds under normal courts

Friday, 20 June 2014 - 7:30am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

The ministry of women and child development, on Thursday, called for suggestions to repeal and reenact the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. Among the crucial suggestions it has put up include, sending children, in the 16-18 age group to be tried in regular courts for heinous crimes, such as murder and rape. It has also proposed that the principal magistrate of the juvenile board, instead of family courts, preside over adoptions.

The new provision entails that children between 16-18 years, who commit murder or rape, "will be subjected to an inquiry of the juvenile board, who will pass an order within a month for "the continued abjudication of the case in accordance with the provisions of the JJ Act or to transfer such a case to the court having jurisdiction over such offence". This includes cases involving murder, acid attack, rape and sexual assault, etc. The act also takes into account repeat offenders in cases of robbery, dacoity, kidnapping and slavery.

This will mark the third amendment to the Act, after 2006 and 2011. After the December 16 gang rape, in which a juvenile was one of the co-accused, there were many petitions to lower the age of a juvenile from 18 years to 16 years. But the Supreme Court shot them, citing that that it will be "unconstitutional".

"Over the last few years, concerns regarding protection of children and implementation issues related to the legislation have arisen," read a release from the ministry.

The new provision also marks changes in the procedures regarding the adoption: Instead of family courts, the principal magistrate of the juvenile board will now preside over adoptions. Also, a government official will be appointed as the chairperson of child welfare committees (CWCs) instead of people with an independent charge.

"There were three main concerns that prompted the provision. The first was the need of a separate provision for children between 16 to 18 years committing a heinous crime. There has been many concerns regarding this after the December 16 gang rape case. Secondly, the need to review the sections that preside adoptions under Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA). Thirdly, the need to address some grey and ambiguous areas in the law," said Shankar Agarwal, secretary, Ministry of Child and Women Development. "We need to address the deplorable conditions of childcare facilities. All children homes should be as good as our own homes."

Anant Asthana, who was a member of the committee drafting the amendment in 2011, said that system -- known as the waiver system -- comes with its own problems. "The new amendment will push in a lot of children to the adult category merely on the basis of an allegation. What is the basis of identification of their ages? The waiver system has been widely contested in countries that have adopted it, like the US," he said.

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