New Delhi: Delhi government's proposal to try juveniles of 15 to 18 years as adults for heinous crimes has got a thumbs down from legal experts and rights activists who have termed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's suggestion as "mindless" and vouched for a need to educate minor offenders.
Child rights activists and lawyers have said that Delhi government's proposal was not a solution for the increasing number of crimes by the minors and instead of trying to change law, the focus should be on creating awareness, speedy trials and convictions.
However, neither agreeing with the activists nor with Kejriwal, Congress MP and noted criminal lawyer KTS Tulsi said that lowering the age of juveniles to 16 years was necessary as it would give them a message that they cannot be let off easily.
Kejriwal had recently suggested that age bar for juveniles offenders be lowered from 18 to 15 years and they be tried in regular courts after two juveniles were arrested for allegedly raping a two-and-a-half-year-old girl in Nihal Vihar here this month.
Commenting on the issue, activist Ranjana Kumari said, "lowering the age of juveniles to try them as adults is a mindless suggestion and not a solution to curb the crime".
Similarly, advocate Vrinda Grover termed the suggestion as "retrograde step" and said that awarding harsh punishments to the juveniles would turn them into hardened criminals.
Anant Kumar Asthana, also a child rights activist, said lowering the age will not be of any help in reducing crime against women.
However, Chairman of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Atul Mathur, partly supported the amendment in Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill which is pending in the Rajya Sabha according to which the Juvenile Justice Board judge would decide if a case where a juvenile is involved in heinous crime be sent to a regular trial court.
"In case of incidents involving juveniles, it is not the question of lowering age but the need is for Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) to have a serious look and be given discretion to send a 16-year-old to normal court if required.
"The power to the JJBs in the proposed law has some merit as it will look at the gravity of offence," Mathur said.
Kumari, Director for Centre for Social Research, said, "Instead of trying to change law, we should focus on community awareness, speedy trials and convictions. Juveniles need to be reformed. How many people can you arrest and put in jails?"