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New Juvenile Law Under Attack
The Juvenile law which passed on 22nd Dec’16 permits minors between 16 and 18 who committed heinous offences like rape and murder to be tried as adults, this law was approved by President Pranab Mukherjee.
The new law gives Juvenile Justice Board the power to decide if a minor between the ages of 16 and 18 accused of heinous crimes like rape and murder should be tried as adults in a regular court. Under the law, the juvenile board will conduct an assessment of factors including the “premeditated nature” of the offence and “the child’s ability to understand the consequences of the offence”.
The Board, which will have a magistrate and 2 social workers as members are to conduct an assessment of factors including the “premeditated nature” of the offence and “the child’s ability to understand the consequences of the offence”. If there is no majority view the juvenile is to be sent for rehabilitation and lodged at an observation home.
No juvenile can however be given death sentence or life imprisonment. Minimum punishment which can be given for heinous offence is 7 years imprisonment. The new law proposed a Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committee to be set up in each district. It also prescribed penalties for cruelty against a child, offering a narcotic substance to a child, and abduction or selling a child.
A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging its constitutional validity Congress leader and Activist Tahseen Poonawalla. The plea said the impugned amended Act is draconian and unconstitutional which instead of providing care and protection to children deems them as adult in cases where the alleged commission of crime by them is heinous in nature.
He says the law is unreasonable, arbitrary and in violation of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.
He also mentions that the law challenges section 15 of the new Act which says in case of a heinous offence alleged to have been committed by a child, who has completed or is above the age of 16 years, the Juvenile Justice Board shall conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult.
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