Bhubaneswar, Jan 9 (IANS) A child rights group in Odisha Wednesday opposed the demand to lower the legally defined age of "juvenile" from 18 to 16, and feared, if implemented, it will have serious consequences on children's well-being.
Odisha Alliance on Convention on Rights of the Child (OACRC), a network of 200 civil society groups, said sending children to jail or subjecting them to harsher punishments or prolonged incarceration is not the way to deal with juvenile crime.
"OACRC is concerned about the reactionary demand from a section of society for amending the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act in the background of one of the alleged accused in the Delhi gang-rape being a probable juvenile," its convener Ranjan Mohanty told IANS.
"The demand to reduce the age of 'childhood' or to create an exception for certain serious offences like rape and murder, based on one instance, if accepted, will have serious consequences on crime prevention and well-being of children," he said.
"Correctional measures are needed to bring justice in the Delhi gang-rape case. We need to upgrade existing safety mechanisms to ensure that women enjoy a fear-free and safe environment," Mohanty said citing a letter OACRC has written to the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, constituted by the central government to review and strengthen anti-rape and sexual offences law.
"The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000, with subsequent amendments in its present form, has come after years of deliberation and an attempt to bring it in conformity with international standards, OACRC stated in its letter," Mohanty said.
"It has also now been universally accepted that the treatment for juvenile in conflict with law must be restorative and reformative and not penal. Hence, sending children to jail or subjecting them to harsher punishments or prolonged incarceration is not the way to deal with juvenile crimes," he said.
"Judicial pronouncements from the apex court as well as from high courts have been in constant confirmation of this experience," he added.
"Any knee-jerk reaction based on a particular incident will derail the process of juvenile justice reform that has only recently begun to be understood and set in motion in the country," he added.
"We have requested the committee to consider our views while finalising its recommendations on required amendments in relevant laws," Mohanty said.