A two judge bench of the Supreme Court has expressed concerns once again over serious offences committed by juveniles. The Bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra & P.C.Pant passed the order and posted the matter in 1st week of May where counter affidavits by Union of India and State of Haryana will be heard upon.
The bench observed –
“The rate of crime and the nature of crime in which the juvenile are getting involved for which the Union of India and the State Governments are compelled to file cases before this Court to which the learned Attorney General does not disagree, have increased. A time has come to think of an effective law to deal with the situation, we would request the learned Attorney General to bring it to the notice of the concerned authorities so that the relevant provisions under the Act can be re-looked, re-scrutinized and re-visited, at least in respect of offences which are heinous in nature.”
The matter pertained to the petition which called in question the legal defensibility of the order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court of Punjab and under Section 482 of the CrPC asserting, inter alia, that on the date when the offence took place, the petitioner was 17 years and nine months old. The High Court had called for a report from the concerned learned Sessions Judge. Be it noted, the report of the learned Sessions Judge was to the extent that the present petitioner was not a juvenile on the date of occurrence. It was submitted by the counsel for the petitioner that even though the application was not pressed, regard being had to the provisions contained in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of the Children) Act, 2000 (JJ Act), the petitioner was at liberty to challenge the order inasmuch as the matriculation certificate is in his favour. The Attorney General contested the said position on two scores, namely, once it has not been pressed, the same cannot be assailed and second, in any case, the certificate obtained by the petitioner cannot be treated as sacrosanct for many a reason. AAG for the State of Haryana undertook to file the counter affidavit in that regard. It was also agreed to by the Attorney General for India that the Union of India shall also file a counter affidavit.
The bench quoted the order passed in Central Bureau of Investigation vs. Swapan Ropyu on 24.11.2014 which had also expressed identical concerns ; “Mr. Rohatgi and Mr. Mehta would further propone that this kind of involvement of the juveniles under the present Act are increasing and it has actually become a matter of grave concern. We are inclined to think that the concern expressed by learned Attorney General is absolutely correct and we are of the convinced opinion that he will put it across to the competent authorities so that care is taken to the extent that the nature of the offence has some nexus with the age in question, for the cry of the collected is to live in a peaceful society that respects life, dignity and others' liberty.”
Pertinent to note that under the JJ Act, an offence by a juvenile i.e. under 18 years of age cannot be punished with Life Imprisonment of Death and such juveniles in conflict with law cannot be kept in jails but in special establishments. After the involvement of a juvenile in the most unfortunate Nirbhaya Rape Case, there has been huge hue and cry over bracketing 16-18 years offenders who commit serious offences at par with normal criminals irrespective of the age and be treated non differently.
Read the Order here.