JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT – 2015
Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) act, 2015 was passed by the parliament of India which replaced the Indian Juvenile delinquency law and Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) act, 2000. This act allows the juveniles in the age group 15-18 involved in heinous crimes to be tried as adults. It was passed after the Delhi gang-rape case of 2012.
In December 2012, a gang rape took place in Delhi in which one of the accused was a few months younger than 18 years due to which he was tried under the juvenile court. Many writ petitions were filed alleging the act to be unconstitutional urging the Supreme Court by prompting the juvenile court to delay its verdict, but the Supreme Court dismissed all the petitions. Demands for a reduction of the age of adults from 18 to 16 years were also turned down by the Supreme Court when the Government of India stated that there is no proposal to reduce the age of an adult. In 2013, the case went to the juvenile court again and a sentence of 3 years in a reform home was given. However, the verdict was criticized on the grounds that it will encourage teenagers to commit similar crimes as the punishment given is not of serious nature.
So, to bring changes in the present system, the Ministry of Women and Child Development prepared a new law that allows 16–18-year-olds to be tried as adults. The bill was presented in the parliament in August 2014 and in April 2015, the cabinet cleared it after some changes. The revamped Juvenile Justice bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on May 7, 2015, and by Rajya Sabha on December 22, 2015.
The said act was challenged by the activist Tahseen Poonawalla before the Hon’ble Supreme Court regarding the constitutional validity of the act. However, the PIL was rejected by the Supreme Court of India. He said that this act violates the basic fundamental right given under article 14 in the Constitution of India. The plea said the impugned amended Act is “draconian and unconstitutional” which instead of providing care and protection to children deems them as adults in cases where the alleged commission of a crime by them is heinous in nature. It challenges section 15 of the new Act which says in case of a heinous offense alleged to have been committed by a child, who has completed or is above the age of 16 years, the Juvenile Justice Board shall conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult. The Court rejected the plea saying that it cannot be a subject matter of public interest litigation and can only be admitted if an aggrieved comes before the court.
Thus, this amended act is enforceable in India and according to this act, teenagers between 16-18 years of age can be tried as adults if they commit any heinous crime.