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India bill to try minors as adults after Delhi gang rape

Title: India new minor law
Reporter: Bismillah Geelani

INTRO:

India's cabinet has approved a bill to allow children over 16 to be tried as adults for
crimes like rape and murder.
The move follows calls for stricter punishment for juveniles after a 17-year-old was
among those convicted of gang rape and murder in Delhi in 2012.
But as Bismillah geelani reports many rights groups are concerned.

TEXT

SFX- 1 Maneka Gandhi speaking

Maneka Gandhi is India’s Minister for Women and Child Development.

She strongly believes that children over 16 should be tried as adults for crimes like
rape and murder
Maneka CLIP 1 (FEMALE, ENGLISH): “ According to the police 50% of all sexual
crimes are committed by 16-year olds – they know the law and think they can get
away with it. But now if we bring them in to the purview of the adult world then it
can scare them.”

And Maneka successfully convinced her cabinet colleagues.

The gang-rape and murder of the 23-year-old student on a bus in the Indian capital
caused international outrage and forced the Indian authorities to introduce tough new
anti-rape laws.

SFX-2 sounds from the protest

One of the six accused in the case was 17-year old and could not be tried along with
others in a normal court.

He was sentenced by Juvenile Justice Board to a 3-year stay at a children’s remand
home- the maximum punishment that could be given.

Usha Devi is the mother of the Delhi gang rape victim.

Devi CLIP 1 ( FEMALE HINDI ) “We were deeply saddened when the culprit in
our case got away so lightly but now with this change in the law we are happy that it
won’t happen with any other woman in the future. The victim will get justice and the
juvenile criminals will have to pay for their crimes.”

Most Political parties have also welcomed the government’s decision.

Atul Kumar Anjan is a senior leader with the Communist Party of India.

Anjan CLIP 1 ( MALE HINDI ) “Reports of children getting involved in crimes as
serious as murder are pouring in from across the country but because of the protection
they enjoy under the Juvenile Justice Act, they can’t be held accountable. Looking at
the gravity of the crimes reported the decision to lower the age from 18 to 16 years is
necessary.”

But Human Rights groups and NGOs working with high-risk children are fiercely
opposing the move.

They say it’s a knee-jerk reaction and does not address the root causes of rising levels
of crime among children.

Colin Gonsalves is Director of the New Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network.

Gonsalves CLIP 1 ( MALE ENGLISH ) “Shouldn’t we look into reasons why
juvenile aggression is increasing? Take Delhi for example, you have something like
200,000 children on the streets of the city, we are doing cases of juveniles called into
police stations and sodomized, we are doing cases of children being called into police
stations and made to clean toilets. You have such high levels of crime, such high
levels o f violence against juveniles, is it any surprise that the poor the illiterate
juveniles are actually getting a feeling that India is not a country for them at all.

India amended the Juvenile Justice Act in the year 2000 rising the age of minors from
16 to 18 years.
It was done to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child to
which India is a signatory.

The UN has described the fresh amendment to the law as a real step back.

Vrinda Grover is a Human rights Lawyer.

Grover CLIP 1 ( FEMALE ENGLISH ) “It was amended by the very same
government that is in power today. We are going to be violating our international
obligations and we will be exposed to criticism.

India is not the only country lowering the juvenile age limit. Countries like the USA
and the UK have also set juvenile age below 18 years.

But International law expert Karuna Nandy says, all these experiments have failed to
control juvenile crime.

Nandy CLIP 1 ( FEMALE ENGLISH ) “There is the Harvard study, there is the
US Department of Justice Study, there are New Zealand studies and there are studies
in our own country, study after study shows that women are not safer, the society is
not safer if you put juveniles lock them away with adults what happens is that the rate
of crimes and the rate of repeated crime goes up dramatically.

The bill still needs the approval of parliament.

From New Delhi, this is Bismillah Geelani for Asia Calling.