Currently, under the Indian law, juveniles cannot be tried as per adult laws, and the minimum age under which a juvenile can be charged for an offence under the Indian Penal Code is seven years.
As the debate to pass the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Bill, 2000, hots up in Parliament, with the Bill most likely to come up for discussion on Tuesday, several voices have come up against the Bill’s passing. Many experts argue that it needs an afterthought as it violates several international treaties.Currently, under the Indian law, juveniles cannot be tried as per adult laws, and the minimum age under which a juvenile can be charged for an offence under the Indian Penal Code is seven years. The juvenile offender, as per present law, can’t be sent to jail. If the Bill is passed, juveniles involved in cheating, theft, etc, will serve anywhere between three and seven years in prison. And for heinous crimes (murder, rape and robbery), punishments will be the same as for adults — life imprisonment with a possibility of release. There will be, however, no death penalty for juvenile offenders.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the United States, those aged under 13 committing assault, murder, robbery, aggravated sexual abuse and drug abuse are punishable like adults, with the exception of life imprisonment and death penalty. In England, the juvenile culpability starts at 17, with those involved in murder, rape and causing explosions endangering life or property facing the same punishment as adults, without life imprisonment or death penalty.In Germany, however, children above 14 who commit sexual abuse, child abuse leading to death, and abuse of the disabled are punishable for up to 10 years. In France, children above 16 who commit murder, armed robbery, serious drug offences and rape are punishable on case by case basis with the maximum punishment being life imprisonment. In Australia, Pakistan, Syria and Thailand among others, the minimum age of criminal culpability is seven. While in Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay, the age is 18.The Justice Verma Committee, formed in the aftermath of the December 16 gang rape, recommended that the age of juvenile culpability should not be lowered to 16.Article 37 (A) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that no child aged under 18 should be subjected to capital punishment or life imprisonment without the possibility of release. India became a signatory to it and ratified it in 1992. The Bill also violates Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (requiring that laws and procedures are fair and reasonable) of the Indian Constitution.The Bill has also been criticised because of the number of rapes committed by juveniles formed 3.1% of all rapes, and the number of murders constituted 1.2% of all murders.