IN ONE of the first such instances in the city, a special children’s court recently transferred a case involving a 17-year-old boy in conflict with law back to the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) after finding its order not “sustainable in law”. The board in Mumbai City district had in September last year transferred a case involving a juvenile offender to the children’s court under the new Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. Under the Act, the board can transfer a case to the children’s court for heinous offences committed by children in the age group of 16-18 years. The Act has a provision for the child to be sentenced for a prison term like an adult offender after the completion of 21 years of age if found guilty by the children’s court.
The child, booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, had filed an appeal against the order claiming that it was passed only by the principal magistrate without any reference of other members of the board . Through his advocate, the boy submitted that the board’s order showed it had only been signed by the magistrate relying on the concluding paragraph which had the words, “in my view”.
The advocate said the phrase itself showed that the order was passed by the single member and did not bear the signature of any of the other two members as required under the Act at the time of final disposal of cases.
“…the order itself is in contravention of Section 7 (3) of the JJ Act, 2015 which requires that two members at least shall be present. But the order shows that only the Ld. Principal Magistrate of Juvenile Justice Board was present and she had decided that the child may be dealt by the Children’s Court. The signature of other member is absent.
Moreover, the phrase used ‘my view’ in the order shows that this decision was arrived at by a single member,” said the court.
It further said it was not a mere irregularity but not as per law as at least two members should have jointly come to a conclusion on referring the case to the children’s court.
Further, the child through his advocate submitted before the court that the board had failed to take a socio-legal approach required under the Act. He had further said it had failed to conduct a preliminary assessment relying only on the mental health report, which could have serious implications. The advocate also submitted that the child could have been rehabilitated within the juvenile justice system and there was no need to transfer him to the children’s court. The court said these aspects would be open for arguments before the board when it was transferred.
The court set aside the board’s order directing it to rehear the case providing a fair opportunity to the child. At least 11 cases have been transferred by the Mumbai city and suburban juvenile justice boards so far to the children’s court.