The State's Trying to Deceive an Outraged Public

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), December 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

The State's Trying to Deceive an Outraged Public


New Delhi, Dec. 19 -- An amendment has been proposed to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (JJ Act) to exclude juveniles between 16 and 18 years involved in rape, robbery, acid attack, and murder from its ambit. This amendment should not be approved for five reasons.

First, the scientific evidence on maturity of adolescents has been ignored. Studies show that the human brain undergoes key physical changes during the ages of 16 and 18, and continues to evolve until the mid-20s. Persons between 16-18 years underestimate risk and are predisposed to making poor decisions. This makes them less culpable than adults. Second, it would constitute a violation of the right to equality as it would hold certain persons between 16-18 years equally culpable as adults. It is unscientific, irrational, and opposed to the objective of reintegration of juveniles under the JJ Act.

Third, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) does not allow juveniles to be treated as adults. In 2000, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) criticised the definition of 'juvenile' in the JJ Act, 1986, under which a boy below 16 years was termed juvenile and asked India to ensure that "persons under 18 years are not tried as adults." This recommendation was accepted by the legislature in 2000.

In 2007, the CRC recommended that: "States parties which limit the applicability of their juvenile justice rules to children under the age of 16 (or lower) years, or which allow by way of exception that 16 or 17-year-old children are treated as adult criminals, change their laws with a view to achieving a non-discriminatory full application of their juvenile justice rules to all persons under the age of 18 years." On children and serious offences, it stated that the considerations of retribution and public safety "should always be outweighed by the need to safeguard the well-being and the best interests of the child and to promote his/her reintegration. …

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The State's Trying to Deceive an Outraged Public
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