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Ministry mulls increasing punishment for juvenile convicts.

THE MINISTRY of women and child development ( WCD) may have shot down home ministry's suggestion to lower the legal age of a juvenile, but the raging debate following the Delhi gang rape has forced it to consider harsher punishment for juveniles found guilty of " heinous crimes". The WCD ministry is currently reviewing the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 and according to senior officials, the government is thinking of doubling the punishment of a convict to a maximum of six years in a juvenile remand home as against the current sentence of three years.

Although the term " heinous" is not broadly defined under the Indian Penal Code, but crimes that earn a sentence of seven years imprisonment or more are generally considered heinous.

" The ministry has made it clear that it is not in favour of lowering the age of juveniles. We have, however, received a number of suggestions on how those guilty of barbaric crimes should be dealt with under the Juvenile Justice Act. One of them, which we are considering, is increasing the punishment term in a correctional home," Prem Narain, secretary, WCD ministry told M AIL T ODAY . WCD minister Krishna Tirath has justified her stand to not lower the age on the ground that anyone under the age of 18 should be safeguarded under the law.

" We need to protect kids and not spoil them. They cannot be handed over to the police," she had said earlier.

According to sources, the government is also keen to include a provision on psychological counselling and extended monitoring even after the juvenile has served his/ her term in the correctional facility. " One has to ensure that he settles in well in society and doesn't return to crime," said an official.

This juvenile age issue has taken centrestage ever since one of the accused in the recent Delhi gang rape case was declared a minor. Incidentally, he was the most brutal of the six who raped the 23- year- old paramedic that led to her death, triggering a public outcry that no mercy should be shown to people aged below 18 who commit ghastly crimes.

The Juvenile Justice Act provides for a completely separate machinery and trial to determine the guilt or innocence of a minor. Such an accused can neither be detained in police custody nor be housed in regular prisons. For a crime as heinous as rape, they can get a maximum term of three years in a juvenile home.

The WCD ministry along with home and law ministry have been holding consultation regularly to discuss the amendments to the Act. Officials said the amendments should be finalised in about two months.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Feb 20, 2013
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