New Delhi,Amrita Madhukalya: As the Centre on Wednesday moved the Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha in a bid to penalise children between the age of 16 to 18 years committing heinous crimes, it seemed to overlook the wrong footing it will step on diplomatically by taking a retributive stand towards children. Former diplomat and UN under secretary, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, brought that to attention as part of his speech as he tore through the amendments put forward by the minister of women and child development Maneka Gandhi.

Pointing out that a revengeful attitude is primitive, Tharoor said that the move will prove to be the cause of embarrassment to the government. "The Bill also violates the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985 or the Beijing Rules which require a child or a young person accused of an offence to be treated differently from an adult. It also violates the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, 1990," said Tharoor. "Condemnation by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will surely follow. This Government may not be embarrassed to shame us before the world, but there is no reason for us, in this Parliament, to accept this retrograde step without a fight."

Shashi Tharoor pointed out that the Bill also violates the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and Article 15(3) of the Constitution, and said that of the 472 million children of the country, only 1.2% have committed crimes. And that, of these, only 2.17% had committed murder and 3.5% had committed rape.

Echoing his concerns were TRS MP Vinod Kumar Boianapalli, who said that these children needed education as most of them had come from poor families, and criminalising them will only affect them psychologically. "The bill has provisions for a special juvenile police units, which says that there will be a child police officer in each police station. How much of that will be implemented is a big question," said Kumar.

CPI (M) MP Badaruddoza Khan, too, pointed towards the violation of the international laws. "The amendment is short- sighted, unjust and against public interest," Khan said. YSRCP MP P Srinivasa Reddy said that the amendment will only make children hardened criminals.

NCP-member of parliament, while lauding the other amendments, said that she was in a dilemma due to the clause on juvenile justice. "We must not forget that the juvenile accused in the Nirbhaya case had no family, and was on the streets of Delhi when he was only 11," she said. "We need to look into the child's psychology. Every child, although he makes a mistake, deserves a second chance."

AAP MP Dharamvir Gandhi said that juveniles need reform not prison. "Scientifically, it is impossible to assert the maturity of a child. How will the government look into the anatomical and physiological development of the child while punishing," said Gandhi.

Of the MPs who supported the Bill, including Tathagata Satpathy of the BJD, AITC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and BJP MP Prahlad Patel, almost all of them said that care must be taken while deciding on the punishment keeping in mind the nature of the crime. "The care and protection part of the bill must be of primary concern, over the part that concerns juvenile justice," said Satpathy.

Violates the fundamental rights
Shashi Tharoor pointed out that the Bill also violates the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and Article 15(3) of the Constitution, and said that of the 472 million children of the country, only 1.2% have committed crimes. And that, of these, only 2.17% had committed murder and 3.5% had committed rape. "How can we pass a law that will jeopardise the other 99.98% children in this country because the government wishes to over-react to these handful of cases," he asked.

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