The Centre’s decision to revise the “age of juvenility” from 18 years to 16 years has met with stiff opposition from child rights groups.
The Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry has initiated a Cabinet note that recommends juveniles in the age group of 16 to 18 who are accused of serious crimes be subjected to the provisions of adult law ( Indian Penal Code) and not be treated as juveniles under the Juvenile Justice Act (2000).
There has been much public outrage after the December 16 Delhi gangrape case in which a juvenile was found guilty. Child Rights groups have slammed the government for acting “against the interests of child rights even as per international law” and “cashing in on public ourtage with electoral gains in mind.”
The WCD ministry had on October 29 this year categorically stated to an RTI query that “There is no official proposal to amend the provisions of the trail of juveniles in the age group of 16 to 18 years” and treat them as per the adult law.
Now this sudden U turn by the Centre has angered child rights groups which have lashed out against the “lack of transparency” and “holding no consultations with stakeholders.”
Raaj Mangal Prasad of Pratidhi speaking to Business Standard said, “The government is just taking a short term perspective cashing in on the public anger and revisiting the age of juvenility with a electoral gains in mind. Its is thereby completely ignoring child rights.” Prasad added, “Instead of focusing on revising the age of juveniles, the government should instead work towards implementing the JJ act properly and focus on strengthening the ‘reform’ system in the JJ law.”
Infact, for the past two days in the capital a national consultation was held on this issue entitled “Juveniles and ‘Serious Crime’ under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000” Organized National Law School of India University, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and National Law University, experts from various fields ranging from law, health, medicine, sociology deliberated on the issue. It concluded that “Any attempt of reducing the age of juvenility, or excluding certain children from the purview of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children)Act 2000 on the basis of nature of the offence and age, will violate guarantees made under the Constitution and International instruments, United Nation Convention of Rights of the Child. ( UNCRC).