‘Against lowering age bar for juvenile offenders’

India being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Child Rights and the Beijing and Riyadh rules that define a child as anyone aged less than 18 years, it is not advisable to lower the age bar for juvenile delinquents. This was the overall sense at a meeting chaired by Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath on Monday.

The meeting was attended by child rights activists and senior ministry officials, and was called to discuss the demands in the aftermath of the Delhi gangrape incident that there should be provision in the law to treat underage offenders committing heinous crimes as criminals rather than delinquents.

"The sense was that the lowering of age for juvenile delinquents is not an option. However, since the matter has been debated so passionately, and because the process of amending the Juvenile Justice Act is underway, this will also be discussed in the committee that has been set up for the purpose. But we cannot lower the age bar," said a source.

India ratified the UNCRC in 1992 and it was as per that document that the The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 increased the cut-off age for adulthood for boys to 18 years from 16. For girls the age was already 18 years. The Beijing Rules or United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice was adopted in 1985 to provide guidance to states on care of children.

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