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By Aditi Malhotra and Joanna Sugden I The Wall Street Journal I December 22, 2015
Indian lawmakers on Tuesday are expected to vote to lower the age at which a person accused of a serious crime, such as rape or murder, can be tried as an adult, from 18 to 16 years.
The move comes after a 17-year-old who took part in the fatal gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in 2012 was confined to a reformatory for three years, the maximum possible sentence.
He was released over the weekend despite an appeal by the victim’s family that he be kept in custody.
Four other men found guilty of the gang rape and murder were sentenced to death. They are appealing their convictions.
Under the proposed new law, anyone charged with a “heinous crime” —for which the minimum punishment for an adult is seven years —who is aged between 16 years old and 18 years old can be tried as an adult.
For this to happen, a juvenile justice board, consisting of a magistrate and two social workers, would have to assess the mental and physical capacity of the person to commit such an offence as well as that person’s ability to understand the consequences of the crime.
The board can ask for the advice of psychologists and other experts, according to the proposed legislation.
The decision to try a person as an adult would then need to be ratified by the Children’s Court, which would also draw up a plan for rehabilitation.
If found guilty, a child who was tried as an adult must then be “sent to a place of safety” until turning 21, when he or she would be transferred to jail.