New Delhi :
Juveniles of 16 years of age and above can now be tried as adults if they commit heinous offences like rape and murder as President Pranab Mukherjee has given assent to an Act in this regard.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, got Mukherjee’s nod recently, official sources said here today.
The lowering of the age from the existing 18 years means that those aged 16 and above will no longer enjoy protection under the Juvenile Justice law, under which juveniles cannot be tried under the normal law of the land that provides punishment of up to death for rape and murder.
Under the juvenile law till now, even those accused of heinous offences like rape could be tried only by Juvenile Justice Boards and, if found guilty, could not be jailed for more than three years.
The demand for reducing the age for trying juveniles for heinous crimes was made following the December, 2012, Delhi gangrape case, in which a paramedical student was brutally gangraped and mercilessly assaulted in a moving bus in the national capital.
A juvenile was involved in the tragic incident which had caused national outrage.
Incidentally, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015, was passed on December 22 last year by Parliament days after the juvenile involved in the Nirbhaya gangrape case walked free in accordance with the earlier provision under the law.
Nirbhaya’s parents were also present in Parliament when the Bill was passed.
The Act also allows that any 16-18-year-old who commits a less serious offence may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years.
As soon as a child alleged to be in conflict with the law is apprehended by police, such a child shall be placed under the charge of the special juvenile police unit or the designated child welfare police officer who shall produce the child before the Juvenile Justice Board without any loss of time but within a period of 24 hours of apprehending the child.
“Provided that in no case, a child alleged to be in conflict with law shall be placed in a police lock-up or lodged in a jail,” the Act says.
The Act replaces the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
As per the law, Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees will be constituted in each district. The Board will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult. The Committee, on the other hand, will decide on institutional care for children.