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Juvenile Justice Bill: Din of emotion drowns voices of concern

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) 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.

juvenile, juvenile justice bill The bill was passed in Rajya sabha through voice vote

A number of Rajya Sabha MPs, including women, expressed concern what implications the law they would pass Tuesday would have on the juvenile-tried-as-an-adult but it was emotion that prevailed as the House passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill.

The haste apparently triggered by the release of the juvenile (now adult) convict in the December 16 gang-rape, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi raised that during her reply to the debate.

“We have the parents of (the gang-rape victim) sitting here watching us,” she said. “… We can do nothing about that young man. He will come, he will go his own way in life and, God willing, be a decent citizen after this; if it is possible. But it will stop a large number of boys who have got into this.”

While introducing the bill, she had called it a compassionate and nuanced one and reached out to the Congress: “This is not my bill. Not of the government. This is your bill… Think about what you wanna do.”

Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said that it was when Rajiv Gandhi’s government brought the bill, in 1986, that the age for juveniles was kept at 16. “It was increased to 18 by the NDA in 2001,” he said.

Azad balanced his stance on the bill. He called the December 16 gang-rape a “heart-twisting”, “scary” and “terrible incident” but stressed that juveniles should not be kept in the company of hardcore criminals and that such company at a “tender age” could give birth to new criminals.

“It should not be that instead of stopping crimes, more criminals are born,” he said. “Criminals and terrorists misuse the law and get crimes committed by juveniles because they feel that they can escape the law.”

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Among those who expressed concern about the hurry in passing the bill, Vandana Chavan (NCP) said, “We are taking the shortest path to seem like we are doing something for women. We have to realise the legal system cannot stand on emotions. It should be on reason… According to me, we really do not need this bill… This law is stringent. Send it to a select committee Passing this bill will amount to accusing our children. We have to provide justice to victims and children.”

Sitaram Yechury (CPM) too referred to Verma Committee: “Why are those recommendations being ignored? Regret that Parliament has missed an opportunity to consider such an important bill in a more dispassionate and scientific manner.” He too called for a select committee.

Kanimozhi (DMK) said, “We are emotional, worried about safety of women. At this juncture, what is the hurry? The child crime is static and not gone up… The parliamentary standing committee as well as Justice Verma Committee were against reducing the age. This is a concern. Please send it to a select committee.”

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Satish Chandra Misra (BSP) said, “The provision of consequences and circumstances makes the entire law redundant. Don’t generalise it. Can there be a circumstance/ consequence justifying rape?”

Anu Aga (nominated) called the lowering of age of juveniles in heinous crimes a “knee-jerk reaction” and a “step backwards”; Kahkashan Perween (JDU) said the focus should be on reforming the system, not just on age; A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK) called for provisions for legal rights for juveniles, crime victims and parents of victims.

Those pushing for the bill included Derek O’Brien (TMC) and K T S Tulsi (nominated), who said, “I commend the minister for having a balanced legislature that takes care of the rights of children and ensure they are held liable for crimes. This is done without amending the definition of children… I don’t understand why we are stating rights of children are sacrificed.”

Here are some of the reactions

Few more reactions:

Vandana Chavan (NCP): ‘We are taking the shortest path to seem like we are doing something for women. We have to realise the legal system cannot stand on emotions. It should be on reason’

Sitaram Yechury (CPM): ‘If tomorrow you catch hold of a young ISIS terrorist, you will say bring down the age by another two years. The question is not about the age but the kind of crime that has been committed’

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Kanimozhi (DMK): ‘We are emotional, worried about safety of women. At this juncture, what is the hurry? The child crime is static and not gone up’

R P Verma (SP): ‘Piecemeal remedy will not work… tougher laws enacted in the past have failed to check crime from happening again… Most juveniles do not even know what the consequences of their act would be’

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Anu Aga (nominated): ‘A step in the backward direction… a knee-jerk reaction only. Most children dread going to remand homes due to brutalities’

First published on: 22-12-2015 at 08:46:16 pm
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Parents of Dec 16 Gangrape victim welcome passage of Juvenile Justice Bill

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