NGOs want dialogue with govt. on Juvenile Justice Act

Updated: July 17, 2014 10:02 IST

A coalition of 58 non-governmental organisations under the banner ‘ProChild Network’ came together on Wednesday to urge the Central Government to deliberate before deciding to repeal and re-enact the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

The coalition also extended support to the government to find a solution to the problem of crimes by juveniles, including sexual violence, by providing professional suggestion based on evidence and research. “We are unanimously looking at the Ministry for more dialogue on this issue,” said Bharti Ali, Co-Director HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.

“We strongly condemn all sexual violence, be it by adults or juveniles, none of which can be justified by any means whatsoever. But we also condemn pitching human rights of women against human rights of children since that will not provide an answer to creating a healthy society. All we want is a dialogue with the government before a final decision in this regard is taken,” she added.

The speakers also cited National Crime Records Bureau statistics for 2013 which showed that 33,707 rape cases were registered in the country as against 24,923 cases in 2012. Out of these, 1,884 juveniles were involved in rape cases in 2013, driving home the point that the allegation that juveniles in large numbers are involved in heinous crimes is untrue.

A month ago, the Ministry of Women & Child Development stated their intent to repeal and re-enact the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, and invited feedback from stakeholders and civil society groups on the draft Juvenile Justice Bill, 2014, said Ms. Ali. “Several organisations, groups and individuals took the opportunity to study the proposed revised Bill and sought more time for consultation,” he added.

Besides that, according to the Ministry’s proposal, while trying juveniles in the age group of 16-18 years involved in heinous crimes such as rape and murder, the Juvenile Justice Board will decide whether the juvenile should be sent to observation home or required a trial under a regular court. “We urge the Ministry of Women & Child Development to reconsider its decision to allow treatment of some juvenile offenders as adults and instead look for solutions within the existing juvenile justice system,” said a statement released by the coalition.

Senior advocate Vrinda Grover, who was on the panel of speakers who addressed a press conference here, asked whether children in the 16-18 age group who have performed heinous acts should be tried under the adult criminal system. “Does the answer lie in the amendments being proposed? There is a need for informed engagement on this issue. Neither group majority nor anger and rage should decide law reform,” she said.

The panels of speakers at a press conference here included senior advocate Vrinda Grover, Nilanju Dutta from Jagori, Atiya Bose from Aangan Trust, Prof. Ved Kumari from Delhi University’s Law faculty and lawyer Anant Asthana.