Nalsar University Criticises Juvenile Justice Bill

Published: 01st December 2014 06:00 AM

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HYDERABAD: Taking strong exception to the way the Union government is planning to repeal the existing Juvenile Justice Act-2000 in a hasty manner without holding  consultations, the Nalsar University of Law in the city has felt that the new bill, if passed, will mark an important reversal of more than 150 years of protection being given to children.

Speaking at a press conference here on Sunday, university vice-chancellor Faizan Mustafa said there was no scientific base for the new bill.

The government failed to explain the reason for introduction of the new bill, he added.

He found fault with the Union cabinet for approving the bill without waiting for  feedback from the ministry of women and child welfare.

According to him, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill-2014, introduced in the Lok Sabha by  minister of women and child development Menaka Gandhi in August, has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

The bill, if passed by Parliament as it is, will repeal the Juvenile Justice Act-2000.

The new bill proposes to change the inclusive policy of protection by providing selective transfer of children within the age group of 16-18 years committing heinous offence to the adult criminal court for being tried as adults.

Whereas, under the existing law, a juvenile delinquent, irrespective of crime, cannot be tried in an adult court and the law prescribes a maximum punishment of three years in a reformatory home. The Supreme Court itself, as recently as March, has refused to lower the age.

“Twenty-five years ago, when crimes committed by children were on a rise in the US, they had adopted certain reforms which later were found to be a failure. There are attempts being made in the US to correct their mistakes and we here are trying to commit the same mistake through reforms,”  Mustafa said, adding that 180 million children in India belonged to vulnerable classes and about 31 million children were orphans.

“If anyone says child offenders are on the rise in the country, it is only someone’s imagination. Of all the crimes committed, only 1.2 per cent were by children and 44 per cent of our population is children.”

Expert on juvenile delinquency cases and former chairperson of Delhi Judicial Academy J Ved Kumari said the new bill was full of contradictions and flaws.

“No country has ever succeed in reforming minors by transferring them to adult system. The fundamentals of keeping a child from any wrongdoing is by ensuring safe distance from bad company. By sending a child to jail, you would only ensure his company with hardened criminals,” she said, adding that every child deserved another chance.

“In 2012, India had approximately 434 million children below 18, of which about 40 per cent were vulnerable to committing crimes. It is being said that there is a spike in crimes committed by children… This is totally false. Out of the total crimes committed, crime rate by children constituted only 1.2 per cent,” he said.

Mustafa further expressed concern that now children from minority communities and Dalits would have more likelihood of being tried within the regular criminal law framework.

Magistrates from Juvenile Justice Board, its members, child rights NGOs, psychology experts and others participated in the discussion.