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Cities » Bengaluru I The Hindu I January 7, 2016
Experts in the field of juvenile justice in Karnataka have expressed disappointment over passing the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, which will allow those in the age group of 16 to 18 to be tried as adults if they commit heinous crimes.
A joint statement was issued by the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bangalore (CCL-NLSIU), the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (DCAP-NIMHANS) on Wednesday.
Experts from these institutions have said that the amendments provide for regressive transfer system for juveniles in the age group of 16 to 18, despite evidence that the treatment of juveniles as adults is counterproductive.
“The transfer provisions in the Act completely destroy the rehabilitative foundation of the existing juvenile justice system in India, by adopting a retributive approach for heinous crimes committed by children in the age group of 16 to 18,” said Swagata Raha, Senior Legal Researcher associated with CCL-NLSIU.
The drastic provisions not only gravely undermine the right to equality, right to life, and the right against arbitrary deprivation of liberty guaranteed under Articles 14, 15(3) and 21 of the Constitution, but also constitute a direct violation of the India’s obligations to the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which India ratified in 1992, she said in the statement.
Shekhar P. Seshadri and Preeti Jacob from DCAP-NIMHANS said that juveniles may not fully understand the consequences of their actions or may not be able to resist impulses like adults.
“Adolescence is a transitional period — they cannot be treated on a par with adults. The adolescent brain is undergoing significant changes especially in areas that are responsible for impulse control, response inhibition and decision making. This psychosocial immaturity could further fail in heightened states of emotion and stress,” Dr. Seshadri said, adding that many of these children come from disadvantaged circumstances both economically and socially and often have undergone significant physical, sexual or emotional abuse themselves.
“These environmental factors could further impact brain development and its function,” he said.
Arlene Manoharan, Fellow and Head of Juvenile Justice Programme at CCL-NLSIU, said the transfer provisions will result in a discriminatory, arbitrary, and punitive system for dealing with young adolescents, most of whom have already been denied the education, protection and care they are entitled to under the Constitution and this very law in their growing years.
“This is bound to attract international condemnation and unnecessary litigation, given our obligations under the UNCRC. What was required was greater accountability of the state to children,” she said.
Transfer provisions in the Act completely destroy the rehabilitative foundation of the existing juvenile justice system in India Swagata Raha, Senior Legal Researcher associated with CCL-NLSIU
Juveniles may not fully understand the consequences of their actions or may not be able to resist impulses like adults