Govt. Moves Changes in Law to Try Juveniles as Adults in Rape Cases
NEW DELHI : Minors above 16 accused of crimes like rape will be tried as adults if changes in law proposed by the government go through.The Centre today moved closer to bringing an amendment in the Juvenile Justice Act. A draft bill approved by the law ministry has been forwarded for cabinet approval. It says juveniles above 16 will be considered “adults” when they have been accused of rape or equally severe crimes.
Changes in the current law were spurred by outrage after a minor convicted in the fatal gang-rape of a student in Delhi in December, 2012, was tried in a juvenile court last year and sentenced to three years in a reform home.The convict was just a few months short of 18 when he and five others assaulted a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern in a moving bus, gang-raped her and tortured her with an iron rod. She died of her injuries a fortnight later, leaving a nation shocked and angry and setting in motion sweeping changes in laws on crimes against women.
Six men were arrested, including the minor. Of the others, Ram Singh, the alleged ring-leader, was found dead in his prison cell and four others have been sentenced to death.The juvenile’s lighter punishment sparked a debate on whether India is soft on young offenders. The girl’s parents moved Supreme Court, but their request that the youngest convict be tried and punished as an adult was rejected in March.
The government’s push comes days after Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said that “50 per cent of all sexual crimes are committed by 16-year-olds who know the Juvenile Justice Act so they can do it.” A section of human rights activists, however, warn that each case must be treated individual and children under 18 should be given a chance to reform; many of them, they argue, come from poor families and have suffered abuse.