New Delhi: Senior advocate K T S Tulsi and National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Mamta Sharma said on Thursday that the amendment to the Juvenile Act was a necessary step. However, women rights activist Annie Raja did not agree,said the amendment was an easy escape route for the government.

K T S Tulsi told ANI, “It is important because the juveniles were undergoing exploitation at the hands of gangs as the gangs know that even if a person under the age of 18, even by one day, one month or one year, they just cannot be punished under the ordinary law. They cannot be detained in police custody, jailed or even sentenced to jail for more than three years under the juvenile justice board. Because of this knowledge, the children were drawn into crimes by the criminal gangs.”

“It was also found out that from the year 2000 to 2014, there was an increase of four hundred per cent in the crimes committed by children between the age of 16 to 18. So keeping that in mind, I think this step is very important. It will also decrease the exploitation, and more justice will prevail,” he added.

Presenting similar views, Mamta Sharma said, “As of now, the cabinet has passed it. Then it will go to the parliament and debate will take place. I believe that they should agree for the age of 16, because it is not like when a 14 or 16 year old child commits any crime is not capable of understanding it.”

“They are fully exposed to TV and internet and it is done deliberately. So keeping that in mind I think the step taken to reduce the age is correct in my opinion,” Sharma added.

Quoting the amendment as an escape route for government, Annie Raja told ANI, “It is an easy escape route for the government for the inability of controlling and preventing crimes against women. If you look at the juvenile section, they are not the vote banks. So you can decide upon them whatever you want and whichever way you want.”

“That is why, if you look at the sexual crime rate against women done by juvenile, it is the very minimal. It is not even two per cent and you are saying and trying to put entire responsibility of sexual crimes against women on these juveniles. This is not the right thing to do,” she added.

Expressing her disagreement with the government, she further said, “To change an existing legislation you need to have wider consultations, scientific supporting documents and all such things. I don’t know on what basis the minister was telling repeatedly that this is on the demand of the police department that she is considering reducing the age of juvenile. There are other stake holders also.”

“The problem lies somewhere else. You will have to identify the problem, why violence against women, particularly the sexual violence against women is on increase? Where is the failure? That you will have to pin point and identify,” she added.

The amendment in the Juvenile Justice Act was approved by the Union cabinet yesterday. It proposes to treat juveniles older than 16 years as adults if involved in heinous crimes such as rape and murder.

The amended bill has the provisions that juveniles convicted for heinous crimes may face a jail term but will not be awarded life sentence or death penalty.

The Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) will decide whether cases where a juvenile is involved in a heinous crime, would be tried under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act or normal trial court.

At present, if an accused person is found to be a juvenile or under 18 years, he is tried by the Juvenile Justice Board and if convicted, is sent to a juvenile reform home for a maximum period of three years.

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