Legal academia and experts have called for re-examination of the Juvenile Justice Bill 2014, passed recently by the Lok Sabha, which allows the accused aged between 16 and 18 years to be tried under the Indian Penal Code, under which adult offenders are tried.

Calling for ‘restorative’ justice instead of ‘punitive’ at a national consultation between lawyers, judges, bureaucrats, members of Parliament, child rights activists here, former Chief Justice of India, Altamas Kabir, said, “at one stroke the collective wisdom of the world community, garnered out of cautious research, has been wiped out…. Knee-jerk reactions do not make good law and can be counter productive in the future.”

Emeritus Professor of Law Upendra Baxi, while acknowledging the supremacy of Parliament to make law or any changes in law as it likes or wants, said “we must not conflate parliamentary supremacy with parliamentary sovereignty.”

The consultation was jointly organised by SGT University, Indian Law Institute and Centre for Child and Law in Delhi, a release by the organisers said.

Giving a psychological perspective, Preeti Jacob from NIMHANS, said “juveniles are less culpable and are much more amenable to rehabilitative efforts and thus should not be transferred to the adult criminal justice system” adding that the assessments that are being proposed in the Bill in order to ascertain the mental capacity to commit an offence are “arbitrary and unscientific.”

Mohua Nigudkar from TISS and former member of the Juvenile Justice Board said that “in her experience it is possible to reform juveniles irrespective of the offence they commit.”

Mohan Gopal, Director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies, said “Nirbhaya provided the moment which had the immense potential for attacking patriarchy, but it is sought to be subverted making the children as the scapegoat.”

After the consultation, the legal academia, which included vice-chancellors of key law universities, said they would reach out to eminent persons from different walks of life to speak out for children so that their childhood is “nurtured and their future secure.”