Cabinet readies to treat 16 plus in heinous crimes as adults

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    Cabinet readies to treat 16 plus in heinous crimes as adults - The Times of India

    Himanshi Dhawan,TNN | Dec 2, 2013, 12.54 AM IST


    NEW DELHI: Nearly a year after the role of a juvenile in the gang-rape of Nirbhaya triggered a storm of outrage while the crime itself led to widespread street protests, the government has proposed that youngsters above 16 years of age guilty of heinous crimes be treated on par with adult offenders.

    The decision to amend the existing law so that provisions of the Indian Penal Code relating to adult offenders become applicable to juveniles between 16-18 years will deny them protection of the Juvenile Justice Act.

    A Cabinet note to give effect to the proposal has been finalized. The women and child development (WCD) ministry's proposal is likely to leave the decision on whether the crime should be treated under IPC provisions to the Juvenile Justice Board which will be expected to evaluate evidence, heinousness of the crime and other parameters like previous behaviour and socio-economic and psychological condition of the accused.

    In the Nirbhaya case, the juvenile was awarded a three-year sentence, which was seen by many as grossly inadequate in view of the brutality of the crime and the accused being just short of 18 years. Nirbhaya's parents have moved the Supreme Court seeking a criminal trial of the juvenile.

    Recent cases including the Nirbhaya gang-rape, Mumbai's Shakti Mills case and even the Guwahati rape case stood out for its involvement of minors in the crime. The WCD ministry has also studied international practices in juvenile justice to reconsider its previous stand.

    Incidentally, the Supreme Court in July rejected petitions for lowering the age of juvenility from the existing 18 years, turning down a clamour in the wake of the alleged involvement of the 17-year-old in the brutal gang-rape of Nirbhaya. However, the SC recently said it would examine whether juvenility be considered on a case to case basis keeping in view the maturity of the offender and the heinousness of the crime.

    One of the significant hurdles to the decision was that India is a signatory to the UN convention on child rights. However, the ministry plans to use the word "juvenile" instead of child for the purpose of this law to ensure that those who are in conflict with the law and are found guilty of rare, brutal crimes are treated differently.

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