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Parl panel unlikely to make changes in the ‘juvenile` age

A Parliamentary panel examining a bill which seeks to enhance punishment for crimes against women is unlikely to suggest change in the age of juveniles.

New Delhi: A Parliamentary panel examining a bill which seeks to enhance punishment for crimes against women is unlikely to suggest change in the age of juveniles even as it is set to recommend death for rapists in cases where the victim either dies or is left in a vegetative state.
Though the age of juveniles is not part of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 being examined by the Standing Committee on Home, several members were of the opinion that there was a need to have a relook at the issue.
On the issue of death for rapists in case the victim dies or is left in a persistent vegetative state, the committee is set to support the clause in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated recently.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill does not propose death punishment in such cases but the committee, which examined the ordinance as well as the recommendations of the Justice Verma committee supported, supported capital punishment.

The members said that as most of the heinous crimes are committed by juveniles in the age of 16 to 18 years, there was a need to suggest change in the juvenile age.

Representatives of the Law Ministry had suggested that in countries like the UK, juveniles between the age group of 15 and 18 are treated differently.

But following opposition by some members, the committee is unlikely to make a recommendation in its report likely to be adopted later this week.

Members who opposed change in juvenile age said since the committee has not heard experts in the field, it should not rush to conclusions and recommend changes after broader discussion.

The issue of juvenile age came up for discussion after the Juvenile Justice Board ruled that the sixth accused in the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student on a moving bus on the night of December 16 last is a minor. Police said he was the most brutal in committing the crime.

This declaration came on the basis of the school certificates of the accused. The school certificate mentions June 4, 1995 as the accused`s date of birth.

The sixth accused will now not face trial before a special court. Under Juvenile Justice Act, the maximum punishment is three years.

During its February 21 meeting, almost all members agreed with the provision in the recently promulgated ordinance which provides for handing down death sentence to the convict if the rape victim either dies or is left in a "persistent vegetative state".

The government went beyond the Verma Committee`s recommendation by providing for capital punishment in the cases where rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in "persistent vegetative state".

In the meeting, three members - D Raja (CPI), Kanimozhi (DMK) and E T Mohammed Bashir (Muslim League Kerala State Committee) - said they were opposed to the overall concept of capital punishment in the country.

They, however, supported the concept of life imprisonment in which a convict has to spend the entire natural life in jail.

Sources said most of the members of the committee agreed that a broader debate was required on the issue of abolishing capital punishment from the country.


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