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Trial of Juveniles as Adults

The present paper works on highlighting whether Juveniles should be tried as adults or not. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, which replaced the 2000 Act, is dynamic and complete enactment that provides for dealing with children in conflict with the law and those who require care and protection. However, there is one new provision which states that children in the 16-18 age groups will henceforth be tried as adults if they are accused of committing“heinous offences”. Section 15 of the Act authorizes Juvenile Justice Board, which has psychologists and sociologists on board to conduct a preliminary assessment regarding his mental and physical capacity to commit such offence and whether he has the ability to understand the consequences of the crime. Further Section 18 provides that after preliminary assessment, if the Juvenile Board has passed order under Section 15 that there is need for trial of child as adult, then Board may transfer the case to Children’s Court. The earlier position was that if a juvenile in the 16-18 age group commits a crime, if convicted, could be sent to juvenile home for a maximum period of three years, but now the position has changed and he can be tried as an adult.

It is for the first time in India’s history that provision is made for trying juveniles as adults. There are some offences which are defined as heinous offences in the Section 2(33) of the Act as offences for which the minimum punishment under IPC or any other law is imprisonment for seven years or more. If the juvenile commits such offence, then he/she can be tried as an adult. The government believes that this provision will help tackling public concern over the perception that young offenders are getting away with light punishment after committing crimes such as rape, murder, kidnapping or causing grievous hurt. So, this can be said as one of the good step taken in the field of juvenile justice. There are many other countries which have the same provision. It is known as judicial waiver, i.e., when a case is transferred from juvenile court to normal court in order to deny the protections given to juvenile.

There are recent cases when juveniles are tried as adults. The first case after the 2015 Act is of the juvenile in the Mercedes hit and run case in Delhi on 4th April 2016. In that case, a teenager ran over a business executive. The Board ruling that the teenager to be tried as adult held that the circumstances show that the teenager was“mature enough” to understand the consequences of the act. The case was transferred to Sessions Court. Since then, there were many cases in which juveniles were tried as adults, the recent being of Ryan School murder case where the juvenile will be treated as an adult.

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