Activists criticise Juvenile Bill

Activists criticise Juvenile Bill

Rights activists, experts and jurists on Monday demanded that the Select Committee of Parliament should examine the Juvenile Justice (Amendments) Bill.

They said the provision of trying children between 16 and 18 as adults violates not only the Constitution of India but also undermines the UN Committee of Rights of Children.
The Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha and is likely to be taken up by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Activists slammed Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi for pursuing a Bill which “violates the Constitution of India”. They said she “wrongly” presented facts about the Juvenile Justice system.

Rejecting her claim that the Bill did not violate the Right to Equality, they argued that assumptions  that children between 16 and 18 years are as culpable as adults and are competent to stand trial in an adult court violates the right to equality under Article 14 and the special protection for children under Article 15(3).

They quoted a research by US MacArthur Foundation that the human brain undergoes key physical changes during the period of 16 and 18 years, and this continues right until the mid-20s.

“Though persons between these ages may ‘know what they are doing is wrong’ they have been shown incontrovertibly to be unable to act on that knowledge and restrain themselves,” they said.

“They are neuro-biologically distinct from adults and cannot thus be tried and punished as adults,” said the rights activists.

They criticised the provision in the Bill of assessing whether a child who has been alleged to have committed a heinous offence has the physical and mental capability to commit the offense and said the latest research shows that individualised assessments of adolescent mental capacity is not possible.

They attacked the provision of assessment by the Juvenile Justice Board to decide on whether the case should be sent to the Children’s Court.

“The very basis of the transfer is the assumption that the child has committed the offence. The claim that children will be given ‘two chances’,” they said.

Senior Advocate Vrinda Grover refuted the connection between safety of women and the Bill. She said, “Based on my experience within and outside the court room I can say with conviction that the amendments will not in any way enhance the safety of women.”

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