New law in India would try teens as adults for rape, murder

01:18 - Source: CNN
Indian lawmakers approve tougher penalties for juveniles

Story highlights

India's Parliament approves amendments to the country's juvenile law after release of youngest convicted rapist

Traditionally, Indian law allows a maximum of three years in reform homes for juvenile convicts

India has actually toughened up its laws governing serious crimes such as rape

CNN —  

A new legal measure passed in India could change the way teenagers are prosecuted in the country for cases of violent crimes, such as rape and murder.

India’s Parliament approved amendments to the country’s long-standing juvenile law on Tuesday, paving the way for the prosecution of suspects, as young as 16 to18 years old, to be tried as adults if they are accused of such “heinous crimes.”

The move comes two days after the youngest convicted rapist in the horrific 2012 gang rape in New Delhi was released because he was just shy of his 18th birthday on the night of the rape. He served only three years in custody, a sentence that many felt amounted to a severe miscarriage of justice.

The freed teen is one of six men who repeatedly raped an Indian medical student on a moving Delhi bus in 2012, the victim’s internal organs were damaged beyond repair, and she died of her injuries 13 days after the incident.

His release triggered calls from a cross-section of Indian society to carry out changes in the juvenile law, initially drafted with the best of intentions and aimed at reform for minors.

The proposed legal amendments would authorize juvenile tribunals to examine whether such suspects, accused of serious crimes, be tried as children or adults. That decision, the amended legislation states, will be based on expert opinion about the mental maturity of suspects in the 16 to 18 age bracket.

Under India’s traditional juvenile justice laws, a minor’s maximum punishment was three years at a reform facility, according to Indian lawyers.

This bold amendment by India’s upper chamber completes the parliamentary process for reform a bill to be sent to the nation’s President for approval.