NEW DELHI — The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the bill amending the Juvenile Justice Act, paving the way for children in the 16-18 age group to be tried as adults if they commit heinous crimes.
The bill is now likely to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
The amended Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, would replace the existing Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.
The new bill clearly defines and classifies offences as petty, serious and heinous, and defines differentiated processes for each category.
The ministry of women and child development introduced the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, in the Lok Sabha in August 2014 but it was referred to the standing committee which recommended keeping the legally defined age of juvenile at 18 years.
However, the government bypassed the recommendations of the committee and decided to go ahead with reduction of age of juvenile offender to 16 years when found involved in a heinous crime.
The bill was passed after the government agreed to delete a clause which said that "any person, who is apprehended after completing the age of 21 years, for committing any serious or heinous offence when such person was between the age of 16 to 18 years, then he shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be tried as an adult".
More than 40 official amendments moved by the government to the bill were adopted.
Replying to the debate on the bill, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said she has tried to be "pro-child" and made efforts to strike a balance between justice to victims and rights of children.
She said the new law was intended to be a deterrent to ensure that juveniles refrain from crimes and avoid spoiling their lives.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), around 28,000 juveniles committed various crimes in 2013 and "of them, 3,887 had allegedly committed heinous crimes," she said.
The minister also cited a recent Supreme Court order which favoured a relook at the law in view of the growing number of juveniles involved in heinous crimes.