As the country awaits the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) order on the minor accused in the December 16 gang-rape case, child rights activists and members of child welfare organisations have yet again demanded that perpetrators below 18 should be treated as juveniles. They want the focus to be on reforming them instead of giving them severe punishment.

“Following the Delhi gang-rape which resulted in the death of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, a demand has been raised by different sections of society that the juvenile age be lowered to 16 and that juveniles be tried as adults for severe offences but we oppose this dilution of the Juvenile Justice Act and reduction of age,” said Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre (JAC) Society general secretary Amod K. Kanth on Tuesday.

“After the Nirbhaya case, a big debate started over the age of the juvenile being one of the accused in the dastardly crime. As per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000/2006, his case was transferred to the JJB,” Mr. Kanth said.

He said: “We have worked with nearly 100 juveniles involved in serious offences in the context of aftercare programmes under the ‘Yuva Connect’ programme to reform and rehabilitate them. We understand that there is a need for an aftercare programme for juveniles as provided under the law and practiced in many developed countries, but yet to be implemented in India.”

Anant Asthana of Haq Centre on Child Rights said he had sent multiple recommendations to the Justice Verma Committee and the JJB, and filed two interventions in the Supreme Court on the matter.

Psychiatrist and co-ordinator of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services of the Delhi Psychiatry Centre Dr. Sameer Kalani stressed on the need for rehabilitation and social reintegration of juveniles. Dr. Kalani said that those under 18 years of age should always have the chance to reform.

“This is something that is facilitated in a correctional home and these juveniles should be given psychological counselling. This might not be possible in the prisons where they would share space with hardened criminals,” said Mr. Kant.