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Delhi government wants to let judges decide if criminals can be tried as juveniles

Suggestion that judges decide on juvenile cases one of 20 recommendations made by Delhi government to Justice J S Verma Committee.

Delhi rape accused plead not guilty jan 2013Enlarge
Indian women police stand guard at Jantar Mantar during a protest against a gang rape in New Delhi on January 6, 2013. Three of the five men accused of raping and attempting to murder the victim will plead not guilty, their lawyer said on January 8, 2013. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Judges should be able to decide if a young criminal is given the legal protection of "juvenality" or not, the Delhi government suggested to the Justice V S Verma Committee, created to figure out ways to speed up the passage of justice in sex crime cases.

The Times of India reports that the Delhi government also suggested that the qualifying age for juveniles should be lowered to 16 from 18, and that bail provisions in rape cases should become considerably more strict.

Read more from GlobalPost: Crime and punishment for India’s youth

India has found itself in the midst of a fierce debate over youth crime, after it was revealed that a 17-year-old juvenile is one of the suspects in the horrifying gang rape and murder case that sparked international outrage.

The Supreme Court of India has accepted a plea that the 17-year-old be tried as an adult in the rape case, stating that the mental age of the accused should hold more weight than the physical age, writes IDN News.com.

A final ruling on the age of the defendant will be released on January 23rd, added IDN, although the court is permitted to order a bone-ossification test on the suspect if they feel dissatisfied with the results.

The maximum sentence for a juvenile offender in India is three years in a correction home.

According to Indian news website Rediff.com, numerous "eminent lawyers and judges" believe that the Indian Juvenile Justice Act needs to be beefed up to prevent such horrifying crimes in the future.

Read more from GlobalPost: Delhi rape trial to begin in fast-track court Monday

"The mental maturity of an 18-year-old is very different today," said former Supreme Court judge Justice Santhosh Hegde to Rediff.

"Take the Delhi gang-rape case for instance. The juvenile will get away with a three-year year reformative punishment because of his age. Can his act be considered as an act of innocence as per the law? It was a brutal act, and he did not act as an innocent while committing the crime."

The Justice V S Verma Committee was created in December, and is expected to issue a final report on January 23rd regarding their suggestions and findings, added the Times of India.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/130120/delhi-government-wants-let-judges-decide-if-criminal