Reported by K Shivani Prasad
On Wednesday 17th July, the Supreme Court turned down the plea to reduce the age of juvenility from 18 to 16. The plea was made by the cluster of Public Interest Litigations filed by virtue of the December 16 brutal gang-rape and murder case seeking to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 so that the juveniles do not get the protection of law for the heinous crimes they commit. A three-judge Bench headed by the former Chief Justice Altamas Kabir dismissed the batch of petitions. The bench opined that “If what has come out from the reports of the Crime Records Bureau is true, then the number of crimes committed by juveniles comes to about 2% of the country’s crime rate. The JJ Act is in tune with the provisions of the Constitution and the various Declarations and Conventions adopted by the world community represented by the United Nations. The basis of fixing of the age till when a person could be treated as a child at 18 years in the JJ Act was Article 1 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The age limit, which was raised from 16 to 18 years in the JJ Act, is a decision which was taken by the Government, which is strongly in favour of retaining Sections 2(k) and 2(l) in the manner in which it exists in the statute book.” The background in which this gamut of petitions was filed was the monstrous gang rape and assault of the 23-year-old girl in a moving bus by six men on the night of 16th December, last year. One of the alleged accused is a minor of 17 years. The minor is currently being tried by a juvenile justice board which is scheduled to pronounce its judgment on July 25. The juvenile accused in the Delhi gang rape case even after having committed a crime so gruesome, the one falling under the category of the rarest of the rare cases will now only face the maximum sentence of three years as per the Juvenile Justice Act. It must be noted that the juvenile age in India was increased from 16 to 18 in 2002 when India became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.