Claiming that its Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, has a “child-friendly approach”, the NDA government Wednesday said this bill became necessary because several issues had constrained the implementation of the existing legislation, even as some parties opposed the proposal to treat children aged 16 and above at par with adults for punishment of “heinous crimes” like rape.
Introducing the bill, Women & Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said an increase in “heinous crimes” committed by children was one of the reasons that necessitated the new bill. Detailing the provisions of the bill, Gandhi said in case a heinous crime has been committed by a person in the age group of 16-18 years, it would be examined by a Juvenile Justice Board to assess if the crime was committed with a “child-like mind” or an adult mind.
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She added that the trial of the juvenile, whether as an adult or child, would depend on the opinion of the board which would comprise psychologists and social experts.
She said the bill seeks to facilitate adoption, which is currently a “cumbersome” process, while also adding to the list of what are considered as offences against children.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said laws cannot be “based on one instance alone”, claiming the bill was born out of the outrage against the juvenile offender in the December 16 gangrape case. He said laws cannot be made to “appease to popular political sentiment”. He alleged the government was “choosing political expediency over justice” and it was an “inhuman idea” conceived by it. “It is morally, legally, constitutionally, ethically and emotionally wrong to treat children as adults,” Tharoor said, adding it was a “badly” written law and the government was “over-reacting to a handful of cases”.
Tharoor said more “hardened criminals than reformed adults” would be churned out if such a law comes into existence. “Justice should be about rehabilitation, not retribution,” he said.The Congress leader also pointed out the logistical difficulties involved in the determination of age of children in this country and said a child could be tried as being 16 but could well be younger.
Supporting the Bill for the changes it brought about in adoption laws, Supriya Sule (NCP) said the government cannot draft a bill based on emotion.