New Delhi: Union Minister Krishna Tirath on Monday did not favour reduction of age of juveniles from 18 to 16 years, but suggested stringent punishment in the `rarest of rare crimes` like the Delhi gang-rape.
"All the children of this country are our children. If we talk about the 16-year-old or 15-year-old, what will happen is that the 16-year-old immature child will be treated like an elder person, which I don`t want to happen.”
"The Ministry`s stand till now on the juvenile age is that it should be kept at 18 years. But in the rarest of the rare case like the December 16 gang-rape, in that I want is that he should get stringent punishment," the Women and Child Development Minister told reporters here.
Referring to the gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in south Delhi, she said, "The public has demanded stringent punishment for the juvenile who was more violent (than others) and I support that".
There has been a serious debate on whether or not to lower the juvenile age in the backdrop of a brutal gang-rape of a paramedical student here last month, in which a minor has also been made an accused.
Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar had last week suggested that there was a need to lower the juvenile age to 16 years keeping in view the increase in the crime rate.
Tirath, however, said that lowering the juvenile age would put the immature children under the risk of being treated as grown-up criminals.
Various factors, like environment in which the child has grown up, has to be kept in mind while dealing with juvenile offenders, she said.
"You are talking about juvenile crime, there are around 44 crore children in this country. If 0.1 percent of children are indulging in such crimes, there is a need to reform them.”
"We will have to look at the root cause. Every crime which he commits, whether big or small, if we provide him the proper medical aid, counsel him, give him proper psychiatric treatment and reform him in to a good man...Our job is to reform a child not just make him a criminal by sending him to a jail," the minister said.