Parliament on Tuesday passed the juvenile justice bill, a day after members cutting across party lines agreed that the important legislation should be taken up immediately.
The bill provides for the trial of those between 16 and 18 years of age as adults for heinous offences. Also, anyone between the age of 16 and 18 who commits a less serious offence may be tried as an adult if he is apprehended after he attains the age of 21.
Key provisions of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015
· Juveniles aged 16-18 accused of heinous crimes (rape, murder) to be tried as adults
· Could face imprisonment up to 7 years but won’t get life sentence or death penalty
· Juvenile Justice Board to decide if every accused minor should be tried under Juvenile Justice Act or in regular trial court
· Juveniles convicted under the regular justice system cannot contest polls and are ineligible for government jobs
· Corporal punishment has been made an offence and is punishable between 6 months and 3 years in jail
· Employing a child for begging will invite up to 10 years in jail
· Use of children by militants will carry up to 7 years in jail
The law at present
Currently, a juvenile accused (under 18 years) is tried by the Juvenile Justice Board and if convicted, sent to a reform home for a maximum of 3 years — as in the case of the recently-released convict in the December 16 , 2012, gang rape.
What happened in Parliament on Tuesday
Giving out the bill’s details, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said borstals — a custodial institution for young offenders — would be set up under the proposed law to house juveniles accused of heinous crimes.
Maneka Gandhi said juvenile crime was being encouraged by the existing law.
“Juveniles’ involvement in crime is increasing the fastest. Children walk into police stations and say we have murdered… send us to a juvenile home,” she said.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said juvenile convicts should not be kept in jail with “hardened criminals” and there should be a separate place for them.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, meanwhile, said the government had listed the bill several times in the monsoon session as well as the winter session but it could not be taken up.
“This law will not be applicable in retrospective,” he said, which means it will not be applicable on the rape convict who has already been freed.
Members from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and DMK also questioned the hurry in passing the bill, suggesting that it may be sent to a select committee.
However, none of the notices to send the bill to a house panel were presented to Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien.
An emotional move?
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury called it an emotional move.
“If tomorrow, a 15-year 11-month-old commits a crime, will you change the definition again? Today, ISIS is recruiting 14-15 year olds. Are we going to reduce the age from 18 to 16 to 14?” he asked.
“The culprit who has committed the horrendous crime, you cannot punish him. That sentiment of punishing him is there. These are matters that merit a certain consideration. Refer it to a select committee,” he said.
Kurien, however, said there was no proposal to send the bill to a panel, after which members of the Left parties staged a walkout.
The bill was passed through voice vote after that.