Experts welcome apex court decision on juvenile age

New Delhi, July 17 (IANS) Adolescent behavioural experts and child rights activists Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court's verdict striking down the plea to reduce the age of juvenile from 18 to 16 years and dismissing the contention that minors involved in heinous crimes should not be protected under the law.

Psychologists in the national capital opined that those under 18 years of age should always have a chance to reform.

"This is something that is facilitated in a correctional home and these juveniles should be given psychological counselling. This might not be possible in the prisons where they would share space with hardened criminals," said Sunil Mittal, director, Delhi Psychiatry Centre (DPC) and director of Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences.

"More focus should be on reforming juvenile delinquents instead of giving them severe punishment," suggested Sameer Kalani, senior psychotherapist and coordinator of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

In the wake of the involvement of a minor in the Dec 16 gang-rape case, a batch of PILs was filed in the apex court pleading for reduction of the age of juveniles from 18 to 16.

Various child activists, including former chairman of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) Amod Kanth, also general secretary of Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre Society, had opposed the plea in the apex court.

"After the Delhi gang-rape which resulted in the death of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, a demand has been raised by different sections of society that the juvenile age be lowered to 16 and that juveniles be tried as adults for severe offences but we oppose this dilution of the Juvenile Justice Act and reduction of age," said Kanth.

Kanth stressed on the need for rehabilitation and social reintegration of the juveniles comprising adoption, foster care, sponsorship and aftercare.

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