Responding to representations filed by civil rights activists, a parliamentary panel has rejected amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act as proposed by the government to treat juveniles aged 16-18 years, accused in cases of rape and other heinous crimes, as adults. “The aim of the juvenile justice system is to treat all children equally with within system,” said the committee in its report tabled in parliament on Wednesday. The committee also pulled the government for ignoring the judgment of the Supreme Court while giving approval to the amendments. The committee also felt certain clauses are in clear violation of the constitution.Last year in August, Union Cabinet had proposed drastic changes in the Act, in view of rising juvenile crimes. The move is expected to reignite the debate over the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act, which had been proposed by the ministry of women and child development.According to amendments, minor above 16 years of age involved in heinous crimes could be tried in an adult court if the Juvenile Justice Board decides so. But following objections from child rights groups, the government had referred it to a standing committee. The decision to amend the Juvenile Justice Act came after the outrage that followed the verdict in the December 2012 bus gangrape case in Delhi. One of the accused, who is a few months short of 18, was sent to an observation home for three years as per the provisions of the Act.The women and child development Minister Maneka Gandhi had said 50% all sexual crimes are committed by 16-year-olds. She also referred to data from the National Crime Records Bureau showing 67% of juveniles charged with rape are over 16 years old.Child rights activists, however, were vociferous about the proposed amendment, arguing that it brings a lot of arbitrariness.The Unicef said worldwide, such measures have not resulted in any lowering of crime rate. Komal Ganotra, director, Policy and Advocacy, CRY – Child Rights and You in a petition to the committee ) said exclusion of children from juvenile justice is a knee-jerk reaction which deflects the focus away from the real issues. She also contested the data, saying more than 75% children are from families with annual incomes below Rs 50,000. Similarly, 68% of juveniles were either illiterate or had hardly received primary level of schooling (NCRB, 2013 “This would increase the vulnerabilities of children belonging from the most disadvantaged and the poorest groups. A close scrutiny of the available version of the Bill clearly indicates the possibility of life imprisonment as well as death penalty to children in the age group of 16 to 18. There is a strong apprehension that this provision will lead to victimization of children under plethora of laws presently operational,” she said.