The government has finally come around to the view that juveniles above 16 years involved in heinous crimes like murder or gang rape, should be tried as adults under the IPC.
The change has happened after consultations with experts and after looking at the practices followed in developed societies. Now the government is convinced that juveniles between 16-18 years committing heinous crimes should not be tried under the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act.
Apart from the Nirbhaya case, the Mumbai Shakti Mills gang rape and a recent gang rape in Guwahati stand out for the involvement of juveniles in heinous crimes. The UK, the USA and France adopt a graded response to heinous crimes by juveniles. Around 20 US states permit them to be tried as adults. For instance, in Florida a 13-year-old teenager, accused of beating a half-brother to death while sexually abusing another aged 5, was tried as an adult in 2012.\
In The UK, a person under 17 (the cut-off for juveniles there) can be tried as adult in serious offences like sexual assault, child sex offences and sexual activity withy a child family member. France has a separate Juvenile Assize court to deal with serious offences committed by minors in the 16-18 age bracket.
In contrast, a juvenile, irrespective of the crime, is protected by the JJ Act under which heinous crimes like murder and gang-rape invite a maximum punishment of a 3 years in a reformatory. The WCD ministry has also found that the term in reformatories doesn't always lead to behavioural correction in juveniles.
In July, the Supreme Court had rejected some petitions for lowering juvenility from the existing 18 years, turning down the demand after a 17-year-old's involvement in the Nirbhaya case. However, the Court has recently agreed to examine whether juvenility should be considered on a case to case basis, conisdering the offender's maturity and the gravity of the crime.