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Murali Krishnan, Updated
Minors aged 16 years and over, accused of crimes like rape and murder, will be tried as adults under a new law proposed by the Indian government.
Women and child activists have voiced their opposition to the proposed amendments, demanding proper debate before they are included in the law.
The Women and Child Affairs Ministry has proposed that while trying a person aged between 16-18, involved in rape or murder, the Juvenile Justice Board could decide whether they should be tried in a regular court.
The proposed Juvenile Justice Bill, to be tabled in parliament, will also apply to juvenile repeat offenders for other crimes including dacoity (the Hindi term for armed robbery) and robbery.
This is not the first time a law like this has been put forward.
It first grabbed headlines after the December 2012 gang-rape of a paramedic student in Delhi that sparked country-wide protests.
Since then the demand to reduce the age at which juveniles can be tried as adults has grown.
But women and child activists have voiced their opposition.
They argue that each case must be treated individually and children under 18 should be given a chance to reform.
Vrinda Grover, a lawyer in Delhi, says if children are put in adult prisons, they will get sucked into a life of crime.
"The (adult) prisons themselves create hardened and worse criminals, (by putting children in those prisons) we are going to ensure that they will be many, many men out there who will become repeat offenders."
The latest National Crime Records Bureau figures showed that 33,707 rape cases were registered in 2013 – of which only 1,884 had involved juveniles.
Advocacy lawyer Atiya Bose says this change cannot work.
"This is a system that has been tried in other western countries, who have been using what is called the waiver system or transfer, where certain categories of youth are moved into the adult system.
"The evidence, particularly from the US where they have been doing it for the last 20 years, shows resoundingly that it does not…do the work that it was set out to do – which is to deter crime and prevent re-offending."
Bharti Ali works for the child rights organization Haq and says the proposed amendments would create more confusion.
"We can’t have one law which says age of sexual consent is 18 and any sexual activity below the age of 18 will amount to statutory sexual assault," she said.
"You don’t attribute any amount of maturity to the 16-18 year olds who are getting into sexual activity, and at the same time you have another law where you say these 16 and 17 year olds are so mature that they are capable of being treated as adults.
"We can’t have such dichotomies in our legal system."
Activists have also warned against pitting women's rights against children's rights in the ongoing struggle to combat sexual crimes.
Ms Grover says amendments to correct the flaws in the juvenile system would be helpful.
"I would urge the minister and the government to strengthen and intensify efforts for the care of the juvenile, for the treatment and monitoring of the juvenile rather than get rid of them and push them into a dysfunctional system."
Psychiatrist Achal Bhagat also supports that view, and says a lot of reform is needed in the justice system.
"A lot more structuring of what the reformative process is, needs to be done," he said
"We need to definitely have better quality human resource for the juvenile justice system.
"And for preventing crime, we need to work at the educational inputs on how we start respecting each other as individuals."