Supreme Court: In a bid to clear the air over the applicability of and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 in a case where the accused had committed an offence in the year 1981 and had pleaded juvenility, the bench of SA Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ elaborately discussed the schemes of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, the Juvenile Justice (Care And Protection Of Children) Act, 2000 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and concluded that
- all proceedings in respect of a juvenile pending in any court on the date on which the 2000 Act came into force shall continue before that court as if the 2000 Act had not been passed; and
- 2000 Act would continue to apply and govern the proceedings which were pending when the 2015 Act was enforced.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
The accused was sentenced to life imprisonment for commission of the offence under Section 302 read with section 34. There was, however, the question of juvenility involved and the Trial Court held that the accused was not a juvenile as per the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 (1986 Act) as he was more than 16 year of age on the date of commission of the offence i.e. 11.12.1981.
The conundrum in the present case was in light of the definition of ‘juvenile’ under the 1986 Act, which was below sixteen years in case of a boy and below eighteen years in case of a girl on the date the boy or girl is brought for first appearance before the court or the competent authority, whereas the Juvenile Justice (Care And Protection Of Children) Act, 2000 (2000 Act), does not distinguish between a boy or girl and a person under the age of eighteen years is a juvenile. Further, under the 2000 Act, the age on the date of commission of the offence is the determining factor.
APPLICABILITY OF THE 2000 ACT
Pratap Singh v. State of Jharkhand, (2005) 3 SCC 551 verdict and its effect
The Constitution Bench in Pratap Singh v. State of Jharkhand, (2005) 3 SCC 551 held
- the 2000 Act would be applicable in a pending proceeding instituted under the 1986 Act in any court or authority, if the person had not completed eighteen years of age as on 1st April 2001, when the 2000 Act came into force.
- the reckoning date for the determination of the age of the juvenile is the date of the offence and not the date when he is produced before the authority or in a court.
- Consequently, the 2000 Act would have prospective effect and not retrospective effect except in cases where the person had not completed the age of eighteen years on the date of commencement of the 2000 Act. Other pending cases would be governed by the provisions of the 1986 Act.
Scheme of the 2000 Act
- Legislative intent clearly expressed states that all proceedings in respect of a juvenile pending in any court on the date on which the 2000 Act came into force shall continue before that court as if the 2000 Act had not been passed.
- If the court comes to a finding that a juvenile has committed the offence, it shall record the finding but instead of passing an order of sentence, forward the juvenile to the Juvenile Justice Board (Board) which shall then pass orders in accordance with the provisions of the 2000 Act, as if the Board itself had conducted an inquiry and was satisfied that the juvenile had committed the offence.
- The proviso states that the Board, for any adequate and special reasons, can review the case and pass appropriate order in the interest of the juvenile.
- The expression ‘all pending cases’ in the Explanation to Section 20 includes not only trial but even subsequent proceedings by way of appeal, revision etc. or any other criminal proceedings. Thus, in respect of pending cases, Section 20 authoritatively commands that the court must at any stage, even post the judgment by the trial court when the matter is pending in appeal, revision or otherwise, consider and decide upon the question of juvenility.
- Juvenility is determined by the age on the date of commission of the offence. The factum that the juvenile was an adult on the date of enforcement of the 2000 Act or subsequently had attained adulthood would not matter.
- As per Section 64, where a juvenile in conflict with law is undergoing any sentence of imprisonment at the commencement of the 2000 Act, he shall, in lieu of undergoing the sentence, be sent to a special home or be kept in a fit institution in such manner as the state government thinks fit for the remainder of the period of sentence. However, such sentence shall not exceed the maximum period provided in Section 15 of the 2000 Act. The statute overrules and modifies the sentence awarded, even in decided cases.
Applicability of the 2000 Act to the facts of the case
In light of the aforementioned legal position, the Court noticed that it can, at this stage, decide and determine the question of juvenility of the accused, notwithstanding the fact that he was not entitled to the benefit of being a juvenile on the date of the offence, under the 1986 Act, and had turned an adult when the 2000 Act was enforced.
“As the accused was less than 18 years of age on the date of commission of offence on 11.12.1981, he is entitled to be treated as a juvenile and be given benefit as per the 2000 Act.”
INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 25 OF THE 2015 ACT
Section 25 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is a non-obstante clause which applies to all proceedings in respect of a child alleged or found to be in conflict with law pending before any Board or court on the date of commencement of the 2015 Act, that is, 31st December 2015. It states that the pending proceedings shall be continued in that Board or court as if the 2015 Act had not been passed.
- The use of the word ‘any’ before the board or court in Section 25 of the 2015 Act, would mean and include any court including the appellate court or a court before which the revision petition is pending.
- The word ‘found’ in the phrase ‘a child alleged or found to be in conflict with law’ is used in past-tense and would apply in cases where an order/judgment has been passed.
- The word ‘alleged’ would refer to those proceedings where no final order has been passed and the matter is sub-judice.
- The expression ‘court’ is not restricted to mean a civil court which has the jurisdiction in the matter of ‘adoption’ and ‘guardianship’ in terms of clause (23) to Section 2 of the 2015 Act . The definition clause is applicable unless the context otherwise requires.
“In case of Section 25, the legislature is obviously not referring to a civil court as the section deals with pending proceedings in respect of a child alleged or found to be in conflict with law, which cannot be proceedings pending before a civil court. Since the Act of 2015 protects and affirms the application of the 2000 Act to all pending proceedings, we do not read that the legislative intent of the 2015 Act is to the contrary, that is, to apply the 2015 Act to all pending proceedings.”
APPLICABILITY OF THE 2000 ACT VIS-À-VIS THE 2015 ACT
The Court noticed that in light of Section 6 of the General Clauses Act read with Section 25 of the 2015 Act, an accused cannot be denied his right to be treated as a juvenile when he was less than eighteen years of age at the time of commission of the offence, a right which he acquired and has fructified under the 2000 Act, even if the offence was committed prior to enforcement of the 2000 Act on 01.04.2001.
It, hence, concluded,
“In terms of Section 25 of the 2015 Act, 2000 Act would continue to apply and govern the proceedings which were pending when the 2015 Act was enforced.”
CONCLUSION ON FACTS
While the Court upheld the conviction of the accused, it set aside the sentence of life imprisonment and remitted the matter to the jurisdiction of the Board for passing appropriate order/directions under Section 15 of the 2000 Act including the question of determination and payment of appropriate quantum of fine and the compensation to be awarded to the family of the deceased.
[Satya Deo v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 809, decided on 07.10.2020]