The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has introduced the Juvenile Justice Bill, which allows the trial of offenders aged between 16-18 as adults in cases of heinous crimes, in the Rajya Sabha for discussion on Tuesday.
The move came amid protests from social activists and the parents of Jyoti Singh, who was gang raped by six people, including a 17-year-old boy, on 16 December, 2012. The protest was against the release of the juvenile convict, who is now 20, on Sunday.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi met Singh's parents on Tuesday and assured them the government would put extra efforts to pass the bill in the Rajya Sabha. He said he was confident the bill would be passed on Tuesday.
The bill, seeking amendments to the existing Juvenile Justice Act, was passed in the Lok Sabha on 7 May, 2015.
"Parents of 'Nirbhaya' met me here today. I assured them our extra efforts will result into passage of Juvenile Justice Bill in Rajya Sabha, (sic)" Naqvi said in a tweet on Tuesday.
In a series of further tweets, he said the government had tabled the bill "12 times during the Monsoon session and five times during Winter session from 8 December till today", but it was never passed "due to disruption in Parliament".
The Bill came up for discussion in Parliament around 2 pm. "The #juvenilejustice Bill set to be taken up at 2pm in #parliament today. Speaking for @AITCofficial am listed to be 4th speaker in debate, (sic)" Trinamool Congress MP and national spokesperson Derek O'Brien tweeted in the morning.
The BJP-led NDA government had introduced the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015, to replace the existing Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, according to which offenders under 18 are tried as juvenile.
The government introduced the bill after gang rape of Singh triggered massive protests nationwide, demanding to reduce the age of juvenile offenders to 16 years. There were demands that the juvenile accused in the Delhi gang rape case be tried as an adult.
To support its bill, the government had cited the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data that showed increase in number of crimes being committed by juveniles, particularly those in the age group of 16-18 years, according to the Hindustan Times.
The government's proposed amendments have faced backlash from child rights activists who are protesting against the amendments.
"We feel one unfortunate Nirbhaya case cannot determine the fate of all the (juvenile accused) boys. The government should not succumb to the pressure tactics from women rights activists," IANS quoted child rights activist Kumar V Jahgirdar as saying in a statement.