Case BriefsSupreme Court

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]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Dinesh Mehta, J. allowed the revision petition filed setting aside the order dated 10-2-2020 passed by the Principal Magistrate, Juvenile Justice (JJ) Board, Udaipur so also the order dated 17-2-2020, passed by the appellate Court i.e. Special Judge, (Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act and Child Rights Protection Commission Act, POCSO) No.1, Udaipur, in Criminal Appeal No 8 of 2020.

Swapnil Kalal had filed an FIR on 12-10-2019, intimating that two young boys intercepted him when he had reached Darshan Ghati on his motorcycle and had snatched away his bag containing Rs 62,460 and some important documents, during investigation the police identified the petitioner as one of the accused and had apprehended to try him for the offence under Section 392/34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Considering that petitioner was 17 years of age – a juvenile, he was ordered to be sent to Rehabilitation Center on 30-1-2020. A bail application was filed on petitioner’s behalf by his uncle, which came to be rejected by both the JJ Board and the appellate board, thus the instant petition.

Counsel for the petitioner Bharat Shrimali argued that the offences alleged against the petitioner were triable by magistrate and thus, the JJ Board ought to have enlarged the petitioner on bail considering that he was behind bars for considerable period and that if he had been a major he would have been granted bail by then.

Further, he stated that the charge sheet/final report had not been filed so far, thus petitioner was entitled to be enlarged on bail, as the statutory period for filing charge-sheet had since passed on the other hand the public prosecutor Laxman Solanki, responded that as per Section 12 of JJ Act, the Board was not required to mechanically release a juvenile or grant him bail as a matter of course, merely because the accused before it was a juvenile and in the response of the delay in filing the chargesheet he blamed the lock down and cited the order dated 23-3-2020 passed by the Supreme Court in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3 of 2020, whereby period of limitation came to be extended considering the situation of overall lock down.

Court while allowing the revision petition upheld the orders under challenge on their merits and stated that there was no reason or material to interfere with the finding recorded by the Board and affirmed by the appellate Court, holding that if the present petitioner – a child in conflict with law was released, there was every likelihood that he will mingle in the company of violators of law and prodded or prompted to commit similar offences.

Further, the Court explained the argument based on failure to file charge sheet and corresponding defence taken by the State-Prosecution and stated that in absence of any amendment in the statute and without there being any remote reference of investigation or provisions of the Code in the order of Supreme Court, taking shield of the Supreme Court’s order to take away the vested right of an accused, is nothing short of violating his right of liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution relying on numerous Supreme Court and High Court Judgments held that the petition deserved to be allowed. [Pankaj v. State,  2020 SCC OnLine Raj 867 , decided on 22-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Ahsanuddin Amanullah,  J. dismissed the revision application as the order of the Juvenile Justice Board needed no interference.

The petitioner approached the Court under Section 102 of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2015, against the order passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Siwan by which the order of the  Juvenile Justice Board, Siwan, holding the petitioner to be more than 18 years on the date of occurrence, has been upheld.

The Juvenile Justice Board, Siwan, had called for a report of juvenility which opined that the petitioner was 20-21 years in August 2012. it was submitted by the petitioner that on their request before the Juvenile Justice Board that X-ray report and Dental report be also called for determining the age, the Board had sent for it, but in the order passed by it on 30-03-2016, it relied upon the first report holding the petitioner to be more than 18 years of age on the date of occurrence. The petitioner also relied on the entry in the school admission register of Class I which was produced in evidence but had not been relied upon by the Board on the ground that the name of the petitioner’s father was not mentioned in the register.

Jharkhandi Upadhyay, APP submitted that a report in regard to a number of teeth the petitioner had, which was a relevant factor in determining the age, was brought on record. Such a report was received holding that the petitioner had 32 teeth. Thus, the Board while correlating the first medical report with the fact that the petitioner had 32 teeth had rightly arrived at the conclusion that he was more than 18 years of age on the date of occurrence i.e. 27-04-2011.  It was also submitted that the teacher, who had deposed at the time of considering the admission register of Class I, had not stated either the date of birth or the name of the father of the petitioner and had also admitted that entry made in the said register at two places were in different ink.

The Court held that the Appellate Court had rightly not interfered with the order and there were no merits in the present application as the Juvenile Justice Board had correctly appreciated the facts and had given cogent reasons for the same.[Jitendra Mahto v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1908, decided on 04-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: K.N. Phaneendra, J. while allowing the present appeal against the order of the II Additional District and Sessions Judge directed the Sessions Judge to refer the matter to the Juvenile Justice Board as the said order passed by the Sessions Judge is not sustainable either in law or on facts.

Background

In the present case, petitioner had been charge-sheeted for the offence punishable under Sections 36 6A and 376 of Penal Code, 1860 and also under Section 6 of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act).

An application was filed during the pendency of the above-stated proceedings, wherein it was stated that the accused was not of 18 years as on the date of the alleged incident and he was a Juvenile. The alleged incident was that the accused had kidnapped and abducted the victim girl and committed sexual intercourse with her, for which Sessions Judge passed an order that the accused was below the age of 18 years and above the age of 16 years. Therefore, the application filed by the accused was rejected.

The said order of the Sessions Judge was challenged before this Court and this Court through an order had allowed the said appeal while directing the Sessions Court to enquire into the claim regarding the age of the accused as to whether the matter is triable by the Juvenile Justice Board or by this Court in view of Sections 14, 15 and 18 of the JJ Act.

Sessions Judge passed the impugned order after the remand, in the said order, the age of the boy was considered under the provision of Section 34 of JJ Act and after perusal of the Aadhaar Card and Birth Certificate. Thus, the trial court came to the conclusion that, the accused was a minor on the date of the alleged incident.

It has also been observed that though Sessions Judge came to the conclusion that the accused was a minor but without referring to the provisions of Sections 15 and 18 of the JJ Act.

Adding to the above stated, Sessions Judge also stated that the accused committed heinous offence and it is purely conferred on the Special Court to decide the age under Section 34 of the JJ Act and therefore, the Sessions Court has jurisdiction to proceed with the trial. Accordingly, the said application was dismissed and against the order present appeal was preferred.

Observation and Conclusion

Sessions Judge did enquire into the matter and came to the conclusion that the accused was above the age of 16 years and below 18 years, but without referring to the Sections 15 and 18 of the Act, the provisions have been mechanically mentioned in its’ order.  Only on the ground that the offence is heinous in nature, Sessions Judge got the power to proceed with the trial.

Now, noting the above-stated position, High Court meticulously looked at Section 15 and 18 of the JJ Act in order to consider whether the Sessions Judge has the power to pass such an order holding the offence heinous and that the accused can be tried by Sessions Court itself.

The Court thus stated that, if the Board is satisfied on preliminary assessment and arrived at a conclusion that the Board can on its own dispose of the case, then on such eventuality; board shall not send the Juvenile to Sessions Court for trial. Therefore, it is clear that such power is exclusively vested with the Board to pass such an order.

Therefore, Court held that Sessions Judge or the Special Judge or the Child-Friendly Court, presided over by the Sessions Judge have absolutely no power to pass any order under Section 15 of the Act. It is the statutory power vested with the Boards. [Puneet S. v. State of Karnataka, 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 1835, decided on 23-09-2019]


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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. declined to quash criminal proceedings pending against the petitioner even while holding that Section 19(1) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 was a mandatory provision and the Children’s Court did not comply with the same.

The petitioner was alleged to have committed penetrative sexual assault on the victim. He was booked under Sections 342 376 IPC, and Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The Juvenile Justice Board completed the preliminary assessment in terms of Section 15 of the JJ Act and held the petitioner was required to face trial as an adult. The case was transferred to the Children’s Court which framed charges as aforementioned. The petitioner, represented by Harsh Prabhakar and Anirudh Tanwar, Advocates, contended that the Children’s Court failed to comply with the mandatory requirement of Section 19(1)of the JJ Act and as such, the proceedings were liable to be quashed. Per contra, Hiren Sharma, APP appearing for the State, opposed the petition.

The question before the High Court was as to whether Section 19(1) of the JJ Act is mandatory or directory and the effect of non-compliance thereof. Notably, in terms of Section 19(1), after receipt of the preliminary assessment from the Board under Section 15, Children’s Court is to decide: (i) as to whether there is need for trial of the child as an adult as per the provisions of CrPC, and/or (ii) there is no need for the trial of the child as an adult, in which case, it shall conduct an inquiry as a Board and to pass orders in accordance with Section 18.

The Court observed: “The expression used in Section 19(1) ‘may decide’. The expression ‘may’ used in Section 19 does not give an option to the Children’s Court to decide or not to decide in terms of Section 19, but the expression ‘may decide’ is an option to the Children’s Court to chose between option (i) and option (ii) i.e. as to whether there is need for trial of the child as an adult or there is no need for trial of the child as an adult.” It was held that this becomes clear when Rule 13 of the JJ Model Rules, 2016 is examined.

The Court held: “Reading of Rule 13 in conjunction with Section 19 of JJ Act clearly shows that it is obligatory on the part of the Children’s Court to take a decision after receipt of the preliminary assessment report from the Board as to whether there is need for trial of the child as an adult or as a child. Appropriate speaking order recording reasons for arriving at the conclusion is to be passed by the Children’s Court.”

Admittedly, in the present case, there was non-compliance with the requirement of Section 19(1) by the Children’s Court. However, the Court was of the opinion that the same would not vitiate the proceedings thereafter undertaken, but would be an irregularity which was curable. The reason being, that in both eventualities, i.e. trial as an adult and trial as a child, the proceedings have to continue before the Children’s Court. In terms of Rule 13(7), in case the Children’s Court decides that there is no need for a trial of the child as an adult, then, it has to conduct an inquiry as if it were functioning as a Board and follow the procedure for trial of the summon cases. Whereas, in case the children’s Court decides to try the child as an adult, then, it has to conduct the trial following the procedure of trial by Sessions Court. in either eventually, charge/notice which is to be framed on the same set facts, would not be altered in so far as the offence is concerned. The only difference is as to the procedure to b followed by the Children’s Court for trial.

Finding support for the position taken by it from the Judgments of the Supreme Court in Willie (William) Slaney v. State of M.P., (1995) 2 SCR 1140 and Supdt. and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs v. Anil Kumar Bhunja(1979) 4 SCC 274, the High Court held that in the present case there was no prejudice caused to the petitioner. In such view of the matter, the Court found to the ground to interfere with the impugned order of framing charges or the proceedings conducted thereafter.

However, since the Children’s Court had not passed any order in terms of Section 19 read with Rule 13(1) and Rule 13(6), the children’s Court was directed to pass an order in terms thereof. The petition was disposed of accordingly.[CCL L.K v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9075, decided on 09-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J. allowed a criminal revision petition filed by the State assailing the Judgment passed by Principal Magistrate whereby a juvenile was acquitted, holding the said order to be Coram non-judis.

The case was instituted on 28-09-2010 when the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was in operation; Section 4(2) whereof states that “A Board shall consist of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class, as the case may be, and two social workers of whom at least one shall be a woman, forming a Bench and every such Bench shall have the powers conferred by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, on a Metropolitan Magistrate or, as the case may be, a Judicial Magistrate of the first class and the Magistrate on the Board shall be designated as the Principal Magistrate.

Further, Section 5(3) of the JJ Act states “A Board may act notwithstanding the absence of any member of the Board, and no order made by the Board shall be invalid by reason only of the absence of any member during any stage of proceedings: Provided that there shall be at least two members including the principal Magistrate present at the time of final disposal of the case.”

The Court noted that while the JJ Act was amended in the year 2015, no changes were made with regard to the composition mentioned in Section 4(2) of the JJ Act, 2000. Reliance was placed on the judgment in Hasham Abbas Sayyad v. Usman Abbas Sayyad, (2007) 2 SCC 355, where it was held that an order passed by a magistrate beyond his jurisdiction would be considered void ab initio. It was opined that where a Court takes upon itself to exercise a jurisdiction it has not possessed its decision amounts to nothing”.

Since in the present case, the impugned order was passed by the Magistrate sitting singly, and without fulfilling the criteria of composition required for functioning of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJ Board), therefore the impugned order was set aside and the case was remanded to JJ Board for deciding the case afresh in accordance with law after hearing both the parties.[State of Himachal Pradesh v. Happy, 2019 SCC OnLine HP 700, decided on 28-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Chander Shekhar, J. refused to interfere with the order of the Juvenile Justice Board whereby it had directed that the two children in conflict with the law in the present cause shall not be treated as adults.

The petitioner was the father of the deceased, Mandeep. An FIR was registered under Sections 363, 302, 201 and 34 IPC in connection with Mandeep’s murder. After going through the material on record including the preliminary assessment reports prepared b experts, the JJ Board passed the order to treat the children in conflict with law as children and were ordered to be tried before the JJ Board as children. The petitioner challenged the order of the JJ Board, but the Additional Sessions Judge upheld the order. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the present revision petition.

Perusing the record, as well as relevant sections the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, the High Court was of the view that order of the JJ Board did not require interference. Discussing Section 15 and the proviso thereto, the court observed: “There is no doubt that the JJ Board may seek the opinion of an expert regarding the mental and physical capacity of CCL to commit an offence and it is not necessary that if an expert opined that the mental and physical capacity of CCL and his ability to understand the consequence of the offence are positive, then the JJ Board is bound by the expert opinion. It is well within the jurisdiction of the JJ Board to agree or disagree with the preliminary assessment report of the CCL submitted by such a psychologist to the JJ Board.” Having regard to the facts of the present case, it was held that the JJ Board had applied its mind before coming to the conclusion that the two children in conflict shall not be treated as adults. In such view of the matter, the petition was dismissed.[Pradeep Kumar v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8251, decided on 15-04-2019]