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Juvenile Justice Act: Delhi High Court Terminates All Petty Offences Cases Against Children Where Inquiry Is Pending For Over 1 Year

Nupur Thapliyal
1 Oct 2021 9:15 AM GMT
Juvenile Justice Act: Delhi High Court Terminates All Petty Offences Cases Against Children Where Inquiry Is Pending For Over 1 Year
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The Delhi High Court has directed that all cases alleging petty offences against children or juveniles, where the inquiry has been pending and remains inconclusive for a period longer than one year, regardless of whether such child or juvenile has been produced before the Juvenile Justice Boards in Delhi, shall stand terminated with immediate effect.The order has been passed in view of...

The Delhi High Court has directed that all cases alleging petty offences against children or juveniles, where the inquiry has been pending and remains inconclusive for a period longer than one year, regardless of whether such child or juvenile has been produced before the Juvenile Justice Boards in Delhi, shall stand terminated with immediate effect.

The order has been passed in view of Section 14 of the Juvenile Justice Act.

Section 14(2) stipulates that an inquiry shall be completed within a period of 4 months from the date of first production of the child before the Board, unless the period is extended, for a maximum period of 2 more months by the Board.

Section 14(4) provides that if inquiry by the Board for petty offences remains inconclusive even after the extended period, the proceedings shall stand terminated.

The Court noted that the long pendency of cases was due to pandemic, where children were not produced before the JJ Boards. It was understood by the stakeholders that the time of 04 months stipulated in section 14 would begin to run only after the date of first production of the child before the JJB, hundreds of matters relating even to petty offences have been languishing at various stages for much longer than 04 months.

The Court thus made it clear that:

"since section 14 says that the period of 04 months shall run from the date of first production of the child before the JJB, we direct that in consonance with the spirit of section 10, the child must be so produced before the JJB, whether or not apprehended or otherwise detained, without any loss of time but in any case within a period of twenty-four hours of the child becoming subject of processes under the JJ Act."

The Court also clarified that the termination of the inquiries as per the said directions under Section 14 of the Act would not in any manner deter the preparation and implementation of rehabilitation and social reintegration plans which would be proceeded in accordance with law.

Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Aup J Bhambhani also directed the Delhi Government to apprise the Court about number of cases pending in each Juvenile Justice Board where inquiries are pending for a period between six months and one year.

It also directed that the details must include the date of institution of the inquiry and the date of first production of children or juveniles in each case, within 10 days so that further necessary directions may be passed by the court.

"In issuing this direction we take note of the fact that when a report/final report is filed alleging a petty offence, it is the State's own case, that the subject is a child or juvenile. We are passing these directions ex debito justiciae, to correct an error in the judicial dispensation, since we believe there is no justification in keeping such matters pending any longer," the Bench said.

The Court was dealing with a criminal reference wherein questions of law were placed by a Principal Magistrate of a Juvenile Justice Board concerning the circumstances when a child in conflict with law also happens to be a child in need for care and protection.

However, during the course of hearings, Amicus Curiae Senior Advocate HS Phoolka along with Advocate Prabhsahay Kaur appearing for Bachpan Bachao Andolan and Advocate R. H. A. Sikander appearing for the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) brought to the Court's notice other issues pertaining to the interpretation and effective implementation of some of the provisions of the Act.

"... this court has been persuaded to widen the scope of the present proceedings, to address what we see as matters critical to the administration of juvenile justice," the Court recorded in the order.

Accordingly, the Court dealt with the issue of overlong pendency of a sizeable number of cases relating to 'petty offences' committed by juvenile delinquents, which are in fact required to 'stand terminated' as per Section 14 of the JJ Act.

According to DCPCR, data was projected before the Court which showed that as on 30th June 2021, around 795 cases pertaining to petty offences committed by juveniles were pending before 6 Juvenile Justice Boards in Delhi for a period between 6 months and 1 year whereas some 1108 cases were pending for more than a year.

"Also, the data shows, that the pendency figures for petty offences has increased by 44% in just the last 06 months," the order reads.

It adds thus:

"Although on the one hand it is appreciated that the JJ Act and the rules made thereunder provide a detailed, comprehensive and self- contained code for dealing with juvenile delinquency and related matters, it would appear that by reason of the detailed provisions so made, the statutory scheme has also become somewhat labyrinthine and arcane, by reason of which it seems, stakeholders are losing their way in the scheme in some ways."

The matter will now be considered on October 12.

Case Title: COURT ON ITS OWN MOTION v. STATE

Click Here To Read Order

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