Expressing its “pain” about a case in which a juvenile was incarcerated for over nine years, the Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi Judicial Academy to design a “refresher course” on Juvenile Justice law for judges and hold training programme for all judges of the lower judiciary.
In its September 20 judgment, the bench of Justice Gita Mittal and Justice P S Teji noted that a man, who had been a juvenile at the time of his arrest in a murder case in 2007, was convicted and put in jail without any inquiry about his age. The sessions court had rejected his plea of juvenility because he had raised the plea over seven years after his arrest.
The bench noted that police had failed to notify the trial court that the convict had been a juvenile at the time of his arrest. The issue was raised after he filed an application before the Delhi State Legal Services Authority, in 2014, which in turn sent a request for an age inquiry to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate. The proceedings of the age inquiry however, “got buried in the record”, while the court continued to conduct the trial of the juvenile, who remained in jail seven years after his arrest.
“This case reflects the callousness or the ignorance on the part of police of the importance of the issue. Also of the fact, that rights of the child are completely non-negotiable. Even, if he/she may stand implicated for commission of a heinous crime… ,” the bench observed.
The High Court has now directed that the juvenile be released from jail immediately, and has observed that the sessions court had “blatantly violated” the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act and the precedent judgments of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court for considering a plea of juvenility, even when it is raised at a late stage in the trial.
“A sessions court has dealt with the case, completely oblivious of the valuable rights of a juvenile under the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, ignorant of judicial precedents on the subject and the orders of the learned Single Judge of this court in this very case. This situation suggests a re-visit to training in law relating to juveniles…” said the bench.