The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday cleared the Juvenile Justice (Amendment) Bill, 2015, lowering the age of a legally defined juvenile from 18 to 16 in the case of heinous crimes. Despite the fact that many parties, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and, till last week, the Congress favoured sending it to a select committee for consideration, neither Shantaram Naik of the Congress nor Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress moved a motion as had been decided by their parties earlier. The CPI(M) walked out once voting started. The presence of Nirbhaya’s parents in the visitors’ gallery and their protest in the last week or so seemed to have had an effect.
In fact, many of the speeches during the discussion had an impassioned tone.
Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said: “We may not be able to do anything about the juvenile convict in the Nirbhaya case but we can deter many other boys from doing so.” “I do not want to tell you what to do, but please remember India is watching us and decide if you want to bring in a nuanced Bill which protects children,” she said, asking the House to clear it.
The Minister said no juvenile would be sent to jail directly. “If juveniles are sentenced to jail, they will be sent to a borstal until they are 21 years old, after which there will be a review,” she said.