The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill 2014, which will next be taken up in the Rajya Sabha, says that whether an accused between 16 and 18 years should be tried as an adult will be decided by a Juvenile Justice Board.
"I don't want the children to be arrested, and no mother would want it. When I became minister there was a group of children committing crime and police officials worried over the matter, poverty cannot be used as an excuse to commit such crimes," Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said.
The amended bill, she explained, seeks to streamline adoption procedures for orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children, and offers rehabilitation for children who need it. It clearly defines offences as petty, serious and heinous.
During the debate in the Lok Sabha, former Union minister Shashi Tharoor was among the members who voiced concerns, deviating from his Congress party's line.
Changes to the 2000 law were spurred by anger after the youngest convict in the 2012 gang-rape was tried in a juvenile court and sentenced to three years in a reform home. The convict was just a few months short of 18 when he and five others assaulted a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern on a moving bus, gang-raped her and tortured her with an iron rod.
The lighter punishment sparked a debate on whether India is soft on young offenders.