‘Decreasing age of juvenile offenders needs reconsideration’

New Delhi, July 16

There is a need to reconsider the decision to allow treatment of juvenile offenders as adults and instead look for solutions within the existing juvenile justice system, experts said here Wednesday.

“Juvenile’s involvement in the acts of ‘adult’ crime such as murder and rape does not imply maturity. On the contrary, it is direct evidence of vulnerability of juveniles to reckless behaviour,” the experts said.

They were speaking at a panel discussion on “government’s efforts towards juvenile crime prevention and changes required in the law”.
Juvenile Offenders
“It is important for the government to understand that by decreasing the adult age group, it cannot decrease the number of criminal cases in the country. Once the juveniles are dealt under the criminal justice system, the children will turn more worse psychologically and are likely to commit crime again,” said Ved Kumari, an eminent expert on juvenile justice law and ex-chairperson of Delhi Judicial Academy.

“According to law, magistrates appointed for cases of the Juvenile Justice Board should have special knowledge of juvenile care, which hardly happens as a result of which they give harsh decisions in those cases against the juveniles,” she added.

According to a recent ministry of women and child development proposal, there should be provisions in the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 to allow the Juvenile Justice Board to transfer juveniles between 16 and 18 years alleged to have committed murder, rape, acid attacks and other serious crimes, to the adult criminal justice system.

“It is a misconception that juvenile crime rate is very high and more than 50 percent of sexual offences are being committed by juveniles in the age group of 16 to 18 years,” said Athiya Bose, an activist for the welfare of juveniles.

She said once a juvenile faces the adult justice system, there are less chances of their not committing crime in the near future because of the harsh way they will be dealt with.

“Studies from the western nations have already suggested that such initiatives are a failure and it becomes difficult for children to come back from the trauma that they suffer under the adult justice system,” Bose said.

Eminent lawyer Vrinda Grover said: “The juvenile justice law already is a perfect way to improve the mind set of the juveniles committing crime. In many cases, it has improved the mind set of juveniles and converted them into better men.

“However, if the adult age group is decreased to 16, there are less chances the juveniles committing crime can be corrected,” she said.


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