In Parliament gridlock, one thing BJP and Congress agree on: When to send a 16-year-old child to jail

The Juvenile Justice Bill, which provides for lowering the age for trial from 18 years, was passed by Rajya Sabha with a voice vote after a walkout by Left parties which wanted it to be sent to a Select Committee.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Updated: December 23, 2015 9:00 am
Juvenile justice bill, juvenile bill, juvenile bill news, december 16 gangrape, delhi gangrape, delhi gangrape juvenile, india news, Juvenile law bill, latest news Juvenile Justice Bill: Opposition members protest in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI Photo / TV GRAB

A new juvenile justice Bill that allows 16 to 18 years old, accused of heinous offences, to be tried as adults was passed by the Rajya Sabha Tuesday after the main Opposition Congress changed its stance and backed the ruling BJP. This paved the way for a new juvenile justice system in which the age of criminal culpability will now be 16 years, subject to some conditions.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 that will replace the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 states that any person aged between 16 and 18 years and accused of a heinous offence — defined as a crime for which there is a sentence of seven years or more under the Indian Penal Code — may be tried under the IPC and not the JJ Act if, after a preliminary inquiry, the Juvenile Justice Board feels that the crime was committed with full knowledge and understanding of the consequences. The Bill also lays down adoption norms.

Read | Juvenile Justice Bill passed: How it happened
Watch video Parliament Passes Juvenile Justice Bill

The Bill was passed by a voice vote with Left parties staging a walkout after CPM member Sitaram Yechury’s plea that the Bill be sent to a Select Committee was turned down by Deputy Chairman P J Kurien on the ground that none of the amendments to that effect had been moved. Two notices for sending the Bill to the Select Committee had earlier been submitted by Shantaram Naik of Congress and Derek O’Brien of Trinamool Congress.

Read |  How Cong, TMC got spooked by ‘sentiment’, ate their words 

Barely two weeks ago, MPs from several political parties, including Congress and Trinamool Congress, had written to Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, urging him to send the Bill to a Select Committee. But the protests over the release of the juvenile convicted in the December 16 Delhi gangrape case, who was six months short of adulthood when he committed the crime in 2012, made the parties reluctant to be seen as blocking the new law.

Read | Three months & a board is all it takes to decide who’s adult 

During the debate in the House Tuesday, several MPs mentioned that the law cannot be applied retrospectively and, therefore, whether it was passed now or a few months later after closer scrutiny by a Select Committee, it would have no bearing on the fate of the Delhi gangrape case juvenile convict, now 20.

Even though Congress supported the Bill, individual members like Viplove Thakur and M V Rajeev Gowda — the latter was a member of the Standing Committee that rejected the provision of revising the age of juvenility — made impassioned pleas against a knee-jerk amendment to the law that most legal experts have maintained will end up with very high rates of recidivism.

The new law comes at a time when there are concerns that the decision to reduce the age of juvenility will lead to misuse. Provisions of the new law have been rejected by a Parliamentary Standing Committee, the three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice of India Justice J S Verma, and among others the vice-chancellors of law universities.

Parties other than the Left which pushed for the Bill to be sent to the Select Committee included the DMK and NCP apart from nominated members like Anu Aga.

DMK’s Kanimozhi read the account of a juvenile convicted in trafficking to make the point that such a blanket revision of immunity would end up victimising children who are already suffering.

Read | Simply put: Who is a child? The 16 or 18 debate

NCP’s Vandana Chavan wanted to know what was the need for India to adopt a system in the United States for transferring children to the adult justice system when it was widely perceived as a failed system.

“We have to realise that a legal system cannot and do not stand on emotion. It has to stand on reason. While enacting laws in our country, we have always upheld prudence and scientific temper. There has been an argument that if you are old enough to rape, you are old enough to be hanged and I feel this is absolutely wrong… scientific studies on the adolescent brain and psychology totally contradict the presumption that juvenile engaged in crimes such as rape and murder are more mature and, therefore, should be treated as adults,” Chavan said.

Speaking in favour of the Bill, senior advocate K T S Tulsi pointed out that jurisprudence the world over was moving towards a lowering of age.

“In England and Wales, for several offences, children above the age of 10 are held to be criminally liable. In Australia, the prescribed age is 14-18 years for children to be responsible for their actions under criminal law. In the United States, many states have the age of 12 years for holding children responsible for criminal acts. In New York and Texas, the age is 17 years. In Bangladesh, it is 16 years and in Denmark, it is 15 years. And psychologists now feel that the children are grown-ups by the age of 14, responsible for their actions,” Tulsi said.

In her speech, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi pointed out that there were enough provisions in the law to ensure that it was not misused.

She gave examples of recent gruesome crimes and of her own driver whose car was stolen by a juvenile to underline the importance of passing the new law.

“Please speak to policemen, they will tell you that every other day, juveniles walk into the police station and confess to crimes of all manner and say ‘mujhe JJ mein daal do (send me to JJ Board)’. They do not know what to do with these people,” Gandhi said, urging members to take into mind the “sentiments of the nation” and pass the new law.

Satyarthi hails passing of Bill

Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi hailed the passing of the Bill as a major legislative reform measure. “Whether it’s a crime by a child or on a child, the focus has to be on reform and restitution and not just deterrence. Care and protection must be provided to all children up to the age of 18. We welcome that no child below the age of 18 will go to jail and instead be sent to a special place of safety till the age of 21,” he said. He added that the protection framework provided under this law is extremely robust.

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  1. R
    Rob
    Dec 23, 2015 at 1:23 am
    Wow, wonder of all wonders!!! Congress allowed a bill to p? You mean they allowed the parliament to function? And all that without forcing Mr. Modi & Mr. Jatley to resign? Where is that cry baby Mr. Free Bijli Pani IITian letting anything go on with Arun Jatley still there in his post and when there is still no AAP in Rajya Sabha? And what about the walk out experts CPM?
    Reply
    1. C
      Chand
      Dec 22, 2015 at 4:39 pm
      Thank god, our MP's in the house of elders for once behaved like mature adults and discharged their consutional responsibility. The bill should not been dragged so long by disrupting the parliament for petty reasons.
      Reply
      1. R
        Rajesh
        Dec 23, 2015 at 6:29 am
        wow!! Shameless CONgi MPs actually did the job they the taxpayer pays them to do and voted on a bill. I think there will be a blue moon in the sky tonight. The sun will probably rise in the west tomorrow.
        Reply
        1. T
          truthsayer
          Dec 22, 2015 at 7:31 pm
          Congratulations to all.
          Reply
          1. T
            truthsayer
            Dec 22, 2015 at 4:02 pm
            Finally congress/TMC/RJD/JDU/AAP/SP is on back foot they have to bow down to Modi. Good job Modi.....
            Reply
            1. d
              dv1936
              Dec 22, 2015 at 4:14 pm
              A good job
              Reply
              1. G
                Gopal
                Dec 22, 2015 at 11:03 pm
                Your elitist bias is showing through. It wasn't just about sending a 16 year old "child" to jail, it was about sending 16 year old murderers and rapists to jail. There is a lot more to the bill as well. So, stop trying to tell us how to think. Just report the news. Your respected founder, Goenka, would be ashamed at how far you have fallen and you are now a part of the elites that are always looking down on the "uncultured" mes.
                Reply
                1. P
                  Priya Singh
                  Dec 23, 2015 at 7:17 am
                  Let see how this change in Juvenile Bill help to deter the crime ratio against women in India.
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    suraj
                    Dec 23, 2015 at 6:13 am
                    hen the age to get married should also be reduced to 16. Boys cannot marry until they reach 21. On one hand you have snatched their rights to get married and enjoy life. . And on the other hand you say they are responsible for their actions. Young boys and girls above age 16 should be allowed to have love and get married. If any case involving lover affair comes to court, then the factor of consensual love should be considered.
                    Reply
                    1. B
                      Babudabang
                      Dec 22, 2015 at 6:27 pm
                      Now AAP and their leader have presented a sewing machine to the rapist KEJRIWAL PLEASE SEND YOUR DAUGHTER TO HIM FOR MEASUREMENT!!!!
                      Reply
                      1. J
                        jai
                        Dec 23, 2015 at 12:33 pm
                        yes FINALLY the politicians acted not because they were in favour but because they would loose VOTES. people power can move mountains! hope such movements are used for good in the future too, rather than majority criminals rule.
                        Reply
                        1. J
                          Jaywant Nitturkar
                          Dec 23, 2015 at 1:29 am
                          I am would like to know which school the author of this article where they taught her to call a brutal rapist and murderer (who was just days shy of turning 18) as 'child'? Let me explain you madam...if someone can rape and kill, he is not 'child'...may be for you but not for anyone with double digit IQ! Does she know that in most civilized countries including USA and UK even 13 year old man can be tried as adults? It seems that in India in the name of being secular and 'liberal' anything goes on...Unbelievable!
                          Reply
                          1. J
                            Jaywant Nitturkar
                            Dec 23, 2015 at 1:32 am
                            Only a stupid person would call a rapist and murderer as 'child'...you cannot argue with stupid people
                            Reply
                            1. B
                              bob
                              Dec 22, 2015 at 3:51 pm
                              How this will affect guy who is out in the street in gruesome rape and murder
                              Reply
                              1. M
                                madan gupta
                                Dec 23, 2015 at 1:00 am
                                15 वर्ष होना चाहिए. अमेरिका की एक महिला टीचर अपने 15 साल के स्टूडेंट को मोज मेले के लिए लॉस वेगास ( जुआ और मुफ्त शराब का अड्डा) ले गई थी. तीन दिन में 5 बार आनन्द किया. बाद में टीचर को 3 साल की सज़ा हुई. आजकल 13 वर्षीय लड़के लडकियां भी बच्चे पैदा कर रही हैं. यह कानून आतंकवाद पर भी लागु किया जाये और उम्र कैद में माता पिता को भी शामिल किया जाये. क्योंकि १५-16 साल का लड़का या लड़की उनके आधीन होती है.
                                Reply
                                1. M
                                  M
                                  Dec 23, 2015 at 6:44 am
                                  There is no point in ping the juvenile bill educing the age from 18 to 16 years without looking into the root cause of the problem. If in future similar crime is committed by 14 year guy then govt will bring an amendment to reduce it to 14 years. There is no end to it. In my perception the youngsters are motivated to criminal acts more by contribution of movies with vulgarity and crime. Second one child labour as in the nirbhaya case the juvenile is guided by adults to perform criminal acts. There could be such other causes which needs to be investigated rather than merely reducing the age.
                                  Reply
                                  1. M
                                    MVK
                                    Dec 23, 2015 at 7:13 am
                                    So, what are you suggesting? They probably got married before any Indian law forbidding marriage before 21 was enforced. But neither of them ever committed any crimes.
                                    Reply
                                    1. M
                                      Mannu
                                      Dec 22, 2015 at 3:51 pm
                                      Credit goes to opposition for coming together and ping the bill. Though BJP got majority it looks like it lost the plot.
                                      Reply
                                      1. O
                                        O Sajid
                                        Dec 22, 2015 at 5:36 pm
                                        There are few things that should be above petty politics... instead of seeing it as 'bowing down' I encourage you to see it as 'collaboration' for a much needed cause.
                                        Reply
                                        1. P
                                          Parthasarathy
                                          Dec 22, 2015 at 10:03 pm
                                          Unlike female organisations, juveniles do not have a media voice about their own point of view about this law.
                                          Reply
                                          1. P
                                            PK
                                            Dec 23, 2015 at 6:58 am
                                            They already do in India whether there is a law against it or not. Hence law is to protect law abiding citizens and not law breakers.
                                            Reply
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