• 16-year-olds committing serious crimes can be tried as adults
  • Debate arose after teen convict in fatal rape case was freed

India tightened its laws for teenagers accused of serious crimes, amid outrage over the release of a juvenile convicted in the 2012 Delhi gang rape that shocked the nation.

Sixteen to 18-year-olds who commit heinous crimes, such as murder or rape, can now be tried as adults. The convict, who can’t be named under Indian law as he was less than 18 years of age at the time of the attack, was released on Sunday after serving the maximum sentence of three years in a reform home. Others convicted in the case have received death sentence by court.

While the amended law can’t be applied retrospectively to cover the convict, its supporters say it will act as a deterrent. Critics however argue that harsher laws in the wake of the fatal gang rape have failed to deter crimes against women, which they say are largely due to entrenched patriarchal values.

Reported crimes against women -- including rape and sexual assault -- rose 10 percent in 2014 from a year earlier. More than 38,000 cases were registered against juveniles in 2014, rising from 35,861 in 2013 and 31,973 a year earlier, lawmakers were told this month. It’s unclear if the numbers have risen due to better reporting or more crimes.

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