Bombay High Court

Bombay High Court: In deciding the instant bail application filed by a juvenile applicant by invoking Section 12 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, the Bench of Bharati Dangre, J., while invoking the principles of repatriation and restoration, granted bail to the applicant. It was observed that since the applicant had positively responded to the rehabilitative efforts during his stay in the Observation Home, he therefore deserves to be reunited and restored with his family and it would be in his best interest so that he can develop himself with full potential.

Facts of the Case: The applicant along with five adults, were arrested for gang-raping a 7-year-old girl and were charged under Sections 376-D, 376(1)(n), 354, 354-D, 114, 509, 506 of IPC and Sections 6, 8 and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act). Upon the applicant’s arrest, he was produced before the Juvenile Justice Board constituted under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and was placed in the Observation Home.

The applicant filed two bail applications before the Juvenile Justice Board, but both the applications were rejected. The Board observed that the adult accused persons are the family members of the applicant, and if the applicant is released on bail, he may again come in contact with these people or other people of similar criminal tendencies. The Board held that the applicant’s safety can only be ensured if he is inside the Observation Home.

Contentions of the Applicant:

  • The counsels for the applicant contended that the juvenile applicant belongs to a lower- middle socio-economic background, with his father working as a watchman and his mother being a homemaker. It was also submitted that the applicant had passed his 10th Standard but could not further pursue his education due to financial issues and mother’s illness.

  • It was contended that the applicant’s involvement in the crime is doubtful as the prosecution hasn’t been able to establish the same.

  • The applicant’s side also presented his physical and psychological status report by the Child Guidance Clinic wherein the Probation Officer stated that the applicant is not a danger to the society and has shown good potential to excel, if right kind of opportunities, guidance, support and education are made available to him. It was stated in the report that the applicant has been deprived of his education during his long detention in the Observation Home and the same has caused disruption to his life.

  • The applicant also drew the attention of the Court towards the objectives of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, which considers a child as distinct from an adult, who has to undergo through the normal procedure on being accused of an offence. It was submitted that the principle of repatriation and restoration which has been recognized as an essential principle by the legislature through the 2015 Act has been violated.

  • It was also submitted that the prolonged detention of the applicant is hampering his progress and also affecting his mental health as it has caused him undue anxiety and that his further stay in the Observation Home is against his interest.

Contentions of the Respondent:

  • Vehemently opposing the bail application, the respondents submitted that the offence that has been committed i.e., gang-rape of a 7-year-old, the crime is heinous in nature. Thus, the applicant does not deserve his release on bail.

  • It was further argued that if released on bail, the applicant would pose danger to the victim.

  • The respondents also pointed out that the Special Judge under the POCSO Act also rejected the application filed by the applicant under Section 439 of CrPC by recording that the accusations faced by the applicant are grave in nature and it is a case of gang rape- an aggravated sexual assault.

Observations and Decision: Perusing the facts and contentions presented, the Court made the following observations-

  • The Court observed that the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 was enacted while noting that the justice system applicable for adults is not suitable to be applied to a child or a juvenile. Therefore, a new method was evolved to try juveniles, so as to protect their interest and also insulate them from being exposed to vagaries of police and the normal criminal system. The Court also took into account Articles 15, 39 (e) and (f), 45 and 47 of the Constitution and United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child and perused in detail the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

  • The Court noted that, “Section 12 (1) of the 2015 Act, makes a provision to the exclusion of anything contained in the CrPC or any other law for the time being in force and is a special provision for a child who is alleged to have committed a bailable or non-bailable offence”. The only embargo is in the proviso to Section 12 stating that where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the release is likely to bring that person into association with a known criminal or expose the said person to moral, physical and psychological danger or the person’s release would defeat the ends of justice. “In the scheme of enactment, it can be seen that Section 12 contains an imperative mandate to release a child on bail, when he is apprehended or detained in connection with an offence and it is a special provision, which stands to the exclusion of the CrPC”. It was pointed out by the Court that Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 is a special statute providing a special procedure to protect children in need and children in conflict with the law. Thus, it is important that while construing its provisions, the core objective of this legislation must not be forgotten.

  • The Court noted the Report presented by the Probation Officer vis-a-vis the applicant’s physical and psychological parameters and observed that the applicant does not fulfill the criteria stated in the embargo contained in Section 12. It was observed that the Report does not reflect him as a desperado or a person misfit in the society, and it recommends that if an opportunity is given to the applicant, he will be a better person.

    “The accusations faced by the applicant are undisputedly serious, but he must also derive the benefit of being a ‘child’, despite he is being tried as an adult and the benefit of Section 12 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 cannot be denied to him”.

  • Stating that the applicant’s education has suffered due to his detention and the same could not be allowed, the Court granted bail to the applicant.

[Sandeep Ayodhya Prasad Rajak v. State of Maharashtra, 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 1825, decided on 22-08-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Maharukh Adenwalla, Advocate, for the Applicant;

A.A.Takalkar, A.P.P., Advocate, for the State/Respondent;

Saveena Bedi, Advocate, for the Intervenor.

*Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant has prepared this brief.

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