Rajya Sabha discusses Juvenile Justice bill, Nirbhaya’s parents look on

New Delhi, Dec 22 (IANS) The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday took up for discussion the Juvenile Justice amendment bill, a day after members cutting across party lines agreed that the important legislation should be taken up immediately.

Asha Devi and Badrinath, parents of 23-year-old paramedical student Nirbhaya who was gang-raped by five men and a juvenile on a moving bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012, were present in the visitors’ gallery as the Rajya Sabha took up the bill for discussion.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, provides for the trial of those between 16-18 years as adults for heinous offences. Also, anyone between the age of 16-18 who commits a less serious offence may be tried as an adult if he is apprehended after he attains the age of 21.

Nirbhaya’s parents earlier on Tuesday met Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and urged early passage of the bill in parliament.

“We have been assured that the bill will be passed in the Rajya Sabha today (Tuesday),” Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi told media persons after the meeting at Naqvi’s residence here.

“He (juvenile convict) would not have been released if this bill had been passed six months ago. Though it has been delayed, we want this bill to be passed in parliament at the earliest,” she added.

Giving out the bill’s details, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said borstals — a custodial institution for young offenders — would be set up under the proposed law to house juveniles accused of heinous crime.

“They (juvenile convicts) will not stay with adults in jails meant for adults… They will be kept in borstals. It does not exist at present… it will be created,” the minister said.

The convicted juveniles will stay in borstals till attaining the age of 21, and will be evaluated to decide whether they should be released.

“There will be a review… if they still have a criminal bent of mind, they will serve the complete sentence,” said the minister.

Maneka Gandhi said juvenile crime was being encouraged by the existing law.

“Juveniles’ involvement in crime is increasing the fastest. Children walk into police stations and say we have murdered… send us to a juvenile home,” the minister said.

Pointing out that even children committed crime against other children, she wondered: “Are we going to protect the victim or the criminal?”

“It (the bill) will stop a 16-year-old from saying ‘I have burnt a jhuggi. Send me to juvenile justice (board)’. ‘Or I have raped, murdered, send me to JJ…’,” Maneka Gandhi said.

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