NEW DELHI: A key parliamentary panel has decided not to push for lowering the age limit to 16 years from 18 years for juveniles involved in serious POCSO cases after the government asserted that existing laws are adequate to deal with heinous crimes committed by those in this age group.

The government’s response comes based on an observation of the parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs led by Rajya Sabha MP and Congress leader Anand Sharma which noted that there have been a large number of cases under the POCSO Act where the age of the juveniles has been below the threshold age for applicability of the law.

“The Committee believes that minor sexual offenders may commit more serious and heinous crimes if left untreated/uncounselled.”

“Therefore, it is very important to relook at these provisions because more and more juveniles are getting involved in such crimes. The Committee, therefore, recommends that the MHA may take up with MoW&CD to review the current age limit of 18 years and see if it can be reduced to 16 years for the applicability of the POCSO Act, 2012,” the panel noted.

In response, the Women and Child Development Ministry informed that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, (JJ Act), 2015 which is the primary legislation for children in need of care and protection (CNCP) and children in conflict with law.

“Child accused of crime under POCSO Act is protected under the provisions of JJ Act, 2015 based on the principle of restorative justice. The JJ Act, 2015 empowers Juvenile Justice Board to decide upon matters of children in conflict with law. Further, offences committed by the children have been categorised as petty, serious and heinous offences,” the WCD Ministry said in its response.

“The JJ Act, 2015 also includes a procedure to decide upon cases where children above the age of 16 years have been alleged to commit a heinous offence,” the WCD ministry added.

The parliamentary panel said it does not wish to pursue the matter in view of the government’s reply.