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‘Redefine’ juvenile appeal in court

New Delhi, July 17: A woman lawyer today filed a curative petition in the Supreme Court for redefining the term “juvenile” to prosecute minors involved in heinous crimes, days after a bench asked the government to reconsider the issue of juvenile immunity.

The petition, which came amid a clamour for a change in the 2002 Juvenile Justice Act, challenged earlier judgments passed by the apex court that it was for Parliament to decide on amending the law.

The plea also said the matter should be referred to a Constitution bench of at least five judges because of the substantial question of law involved.

In her petition, Shweta, an advocate, said if crimes against women were to be curbed, it was necessary to “redefine” the term juvenile. “As of now age alone is the factor. This definition is defective and arbitrary,” it said.

“If a boy can forcibly commit rape, mentally and physiologically he is really an adult and not a juvenile.”

Under-18 accused are tried under the Juvenile Justice Act, which prescribes a maximum punishment of three years in a reformatory home.

Curative petitions — the last resort of a petitioner to seek remedy — are filed after the original and review petitions have been dismissed.

On March 28 this year, a three-judge apex court bench had ruled that it could not direct the Centre to lower the age of juvenility, ruling on a petition challenging the immunity granted to one of the accused in the eventually fatal December 2012 bus gang rape.

Earlier this week, a two-judge bench had reopened the debate, seeking the Centre’s response on whether those accused of crimes like murder, kidnapping and drug offences should be spared just because they were under 18.

The court wondered when a person was mature enough to vote at 18, why should those under 18 not be considered mature enough to know consequences of heinous crimes.