Following outrage over the nature and quantum of punishment awarded to a juvenile accused in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gangrape case, the Union Cabinet Wednesday cleared crucial amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 that will now empower the Juvenile Justice Board to decide whether a juvenile aged between 16-18 years is to be tried in a regular court for having committed a heinous crime that carries a punishment of seven years or more.
“Under the new provisions, the Juvenile Justice Board will decide on whether juveniles who are 16-18 years of age and commit heinous crimes like rape or murders need to be tried by ordinary criminal courts,” sources told The Indian Express. They added that the amendments have been made to make penalties in the Act more stringent. This follows large-scale public outrage that was witnessed after the juvenile accused in the Delhi gang-rape case was sentenced to three years in a reform home.
Significantly though, even if juveniles accused of having committed heinous crimes are tried by ordinary courts following these amendments to the law, they will not be sentenced to death or life imprisonment, sources said.
Before taking the call on whether a juvenile’s crime should be tried by a regular court, the Juvenile Justice Board will assess factors like the “premeditated nature” of the offence, “culpability” of the juvenile and his “ability to understand the consequences of the offence”.
In another significant decision, the Union Cabinet also decided not to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.
While the Women and Child Development Ministry was learnt to be in favour of allowing such couples to adopt, the move was objected to by the Law Ministry, the sources said.
Meanwhile, a new Bill to replace the existing Judicial Appointments Commission Bill was deferred by the Cabinet.
The Cabinet also cleared provisions in the draft Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, which seeks to make corporal punishment and ragging criminal offences under new provisions.
While parents, guardians and schools teachers could face a maximum of five years in jail for beating a child, or verbally abusing him or inflicting any other form of corporal punishment, ragging a fresher or junior in college could attract a maximum of three years in prison.