SC reserves verdict on fresh interpretation of term 'juvenile'

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Supreme Court
New Delhi, Jan 29: The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on the pleas seeking fresh interpretation of the term 'juvenile' in the statute and leaving it to the criminal court, instead of Juvenile Justice Board, to determine the juvenility of an offender in heinous crimes.

Two petitions, filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and parents of the victim of the December 16 gangrape, challenging the constitutional validity of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, were opposed by the Centre.

The victim's father said that the August 31, 2013 verdict of the Juvenile Justice Board was not acceptable to the family and so they are challenging the Act as there is no other authority, which they can approach for such relief.

He sought a direction to declare as unconstitutional and void the JJA to the extent it puts a blanket ban on the power of the criminal courts to try a juvenile offender for offences committed under the IPC. His counsel Aman Hingorani submitted that the provisions in the Act leave the judiciary a "helpless spectator" to the proceedings of the Board, which functions merely as a fact finding inquiry body rather than carrying out the trial.

He said "mental and intellectual maturity" of the juvenile involved in the December 16 gangrape has to be taken into account and should be put to trial like the four other accused who have been awarded death sentence.

"Can a person party in the gang not know what he is doing? Can any person under any jurisprudence of any country in such a case say he has no knowledge what he is doing," Hingorani submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam.

The petition by the victim's parents said the juvenile "is liable to be tried and punished by the criminal courts for the aforesaid offences, complete with the judicial discretion on established principles of law regarding the award of sentence keeping in view, amongst other factors, the nature and gravity of the offence". 

PTI

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