Delhi gangrape: Do not try minor as adult says NCPCR chief

Delhi gang rape

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights chief Shantha Sinha Saturday opposed Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath's demand that the 17-year-old involved in the Delhi gangrape be tried as an adult.

Sinha is also not in favour of "knee-jerk revisions" in the age provision in the Juvenile Justice Act that Tirath has hinted at.

"Law is not made over one unique case. NCPCR is against any dilution of the 18 year age bar because it has been ratified under the zUN Convention for Rights of a Child. As for this specific case, our view is that the 17-year-old was underage and as such should be treated as a juvenile delinquent and not as a criminal. Cases such as these or the battering of Baby Falak call for ever closer scrutiny of the systems that we have in place for protection and care of children. They cannot be treated in isolation," Sinha said.

Tirath's announcement that her ministry would amend the Juvenile Justice Act to make offenders aged 15 years or more charged with heinous crimes liable to be tried as adults has not only been opposed by the NCPCR, whose mandate it is to steer policy in the matter of juvenile delinquents, but also caught her ministry unawares. Senior officials maintain there is no scope for such announcement without consultations. "The suggestion only came at the home ministry's conference yesterday. We are yet to apply our minds. No call has been taken," said a senior official.

Tirath's office clarified that she had only responded to "suggestions from the media" and that nothing had been finalised about possible amendments to the Act.

Tirath reiterated that in crimes like the Delhi gangrape there is a need to make an exception. "This is a rarest of rare case and our suggestion is that 15-18 year olds who have committed such crimes be tried as adults," she said.

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