New Delhi: Juveniles aged 16 to 18 years would now be tried as adults in cases of heinous crimes like rape and murder with a new law in this regard coming into force from Friday.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha in the Winter Session and signed by the President into Act on January 4.
Under the Act, those aged between 16 and 18 years will cease to get protection under the juvenile law and will be tried as adults if they commit heinous crimes.
Under the juvenile law till now, even those accused of heinous offences like rape could be tried only by Juvenile Justice Boards and, if found guilty, sent to correctional homes for not more than three years.
The new Act allows the Juvenile Justice Board to conduct a preliminary inquiry to find out whether the juvenile is indeed guilty of a heinous offence.
The JJB has been given the option to transfer cases of heinous offences by such children to a Children's Court (Court of Session) after conducting preliminary assessment.
Among other key provisions of the law are -- change in word from 'juvenile' to 'child' or 'child in conflict with law' to remove the negative connotation associated with the word 'juvenile'.
The revised law includes several new definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children, and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children.
It also provides enhanced clarity with regard to powers, functions and responsibilities of JJBs and Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and clear timelines for their inquiries.
The demand for reducing the age for trying juveniles accused of heinous crimes was made following the December 16 gangrape case, in which a paramedical student was brutally gangraped and assaulted in a moving bus in the national capital.
"We are making sure that JJBs and CWCs are constituted in each district. It will be the Board which will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or tried as an adult.
"The Committee, on the other hand, will decide on institutional care for children," a senior official of the Women and Child Development Mintsry said.
"Several new offences committed against children which were not adequately covered under any other law are included in the Act. These include sale and procurement of children for any purpose including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, use of child by militant groups, offences against disabled children and kidnapping," the official said.