Rajya Sabha to take up Juvenile Bill today

Govt., Opposition blame each other for delay in passing the law.

December 21, 2015 11:17 pm | Updated March 24, 2016 11:28 am IST - New Delhi:

Public anger at the release of the juvenile convict in the Delhi gang rape case has compelled MPs, transcending party lines, to agree to bring for consideration in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday the proposed amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act. The amendments have received the Lok Sabha’s approval.

Predictably, the government and the Congress traded charges over the delay in its passage in the Rajya Sabha with Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accusing the Congress of not allowing the House to function.

Congress to take a call on Juvenile Justice Act

The agreement among MPs in the Rajya Sabha to consider the proposed amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act on Tuesday comes days after Opposition MPs, at an all-party meeting called by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, had pressed for these amendments to be sent to a Select Committee.

On Monday, however, the Trinamool Congress, the Janata Dal (United) and the Samajwadi Party all agreed to back the amendments with the Trinamool’s Derek O’ Brien saying in the Rajya Sabha: “The nation wants this Bill passed. In the next two days, parties should rise above politics and pass this Bill. I appeal to the Congress party for it.”

The Left Parties, meanwhile, stuck to their guns, with the CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury stating outside the House that the Left parties were still of the view that the amendments should go to a Select Committee. His party colleague, Brinda Karat, said in the Rajya Sabha that even if the amendments were passed, the new provisions would not apply retrospectively to the juvenile convict in the Delhi gang-rape case.

The Congress was ambivalent: on the floor, party MPs Pramod Tiwary and Renuka Chowdhury made a plea for the passage of the amendments while targeting the government for delaying the process. Mr. Tiwary held the government “guilty for the release of the accused and of not being able to pass the Bill”, while Ms. Chowdhury wondered who would be held responsible if the released convict committed an offence in the future.

However, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said at the all-party meeting that the Congress had asked for the tabling of the Juvenile Justice Bill. “But it was not in the agenda today. Now, because of media reports, the government has put it in the supplementary business. It is only a ruse to shame the Opposition in public by saying that we had presented [the Bill], but the Opposition had objected.”

Later, speaking informally to The Hindu , senior Congress MPs from the Rajya Sabha said the party would take a call on Tuesday.

The amendments, interestingly, have already been through a Standing Committee of Parliament that wanted the cut-off age to be 18. That committee had stressed that though the spike in juvenile crime, as reflected in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data had been the reason cited for the amendments, the NCRB data was misleading as it was based on FIRs and not actual convictions. Therefore, it had suggested that the approach towards juvenile offenders should be reformative and rehabilitative.

Meanwhile, after days of adjournments, the Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the long-pending SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill along with two Bills on supplementary demands for 2015-16, within minutes without any debate.

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