Indian parliament, last week on Tuesday December 22, passed the long awaited “Juvenile Justice Amendment bill” which allows juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age to be tried as adults for serious crimes like rape or murder.
“The new law will decide whether a child committed the crime in a childish or adult frame of mind”. Importantly, the new Bill requires the creation of JJBs and child welfare committees in every district.
At present, those under 18 can be sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reform facility.
The move to change the law gathered momentum after Jyoti Singh’s (Nirbhaya) rape in 2012. The parents of the victim were among those campaigning to change the law.
The bill was approved by the Lok Sabha – the lower house – in May, 2015. It will now be signed by the president to become law.
Authorities say the number of juvenile crimes have been increasing – last year, 38,565 cases were registered, including many cases of rapes, murders and acid attacks.
The supporters of the new law say tougher punishment will act as a deterrent.
However, critics say that India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which mandates that all children under the age of 18 be treated equally, and say the new law will violate the convention.
Welcoming the Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill being finally passed by the Rajya Sabha, Nobel Peace Laureate and child rights’ champion Kailash Satyarthi hailed it as “a major legislative reform measure towards holistic child protection and development”.