CASES of serious offences committed by minors, which are transferred from the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) to be tried as adults before the sessions court, will be heard before a single court. According to a recent directive by the Principal Judge of Mumbai city civil and district sessions court, cases of children in the age group of 16-18 years transferred from the Juvenile Justice Board have been assigned to one designated court.
An official said a suggestion was made to the judge regarding the cases to be heard before a single court by the JJB. A court official confirmed all such cases have been assigned to a designated children’s court, a special court under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, recently.
At least 11 such cases — for juveniles to be tried as adults — have been transferred by the JJB to the sessions court after the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015, came into implementation in 2016. Under the provisions of the new Act, in cases of heinous crimes committed by a child in the age group of 16-18 years, the JJB is to conduct a preliminary assessment determining the mental and physical capacity of the juvenile to commit the offence, the ability to understand the consequences of the offence and the circumstances in which the offence was committed. On completion of the assessment, the JJB under Section 19 of the Act may decide there is a need for the child to be tried as an adult before the sessions court or he can be continued to be tried before it as a child.
Parents of some of these juveniles had said after the transfer, their children were not being produced before the court for many months, nor there was a clarity on their cases. The JJB had also directed the Probation Officer of the Observation Home where the children are lodged to conduct a follow-up of the transferred cases and inform them about the status.
“One such case transferred from the JJB to a children’s court which I am handling has been assigned to another court recently along with another case that I am aware about,” said advocate Anne T Panicker.
“I was informed about my son’s case being recently assigned to another court. I was not informed of any reason but I am told that all juvenile justice cases will be heard there. If that is the case, it will hopefully bring clarity about the various provisions of the JJ Act,” said the parent of a 17-year old.
Sources said the suggestion by the JJB could have been to ensure that there is clarity on the provisions of the Act. “Since the Act is new, many of its provisions are still to be understood for proper implementation. In some cases, there have been issues raised by defence advocates for these children. Assigning the cases to one court could make it easier for all parties to implement the proceedings,” said a court official.
One issue raised by some of the defence advocates, for instance, is regarding the preliminary assessment to be conducted by the children’s court after the case is transferred from the JJB. The assessment is to determine factors including whether the child was aware of the consequences of the offence. Some of the applications pending before the children’s court alleged that the children’s courts have not conducted the assessment.
Before the order, these cases were being heard by the designated POCSO courts. The Principal Judge had in one case ordered separate trial of an adult co-accused from a juvenile observing that if tried before the same court, ‘there is a possibility of interest of juvenile being jeopardised’.