IN ONE of the first orders by a city children’s court, under the amended Juvenile Justice Act, a minor was acquitted on Monday from charges of child sexual abuse. The minor, who was 16 at the time of the alleged offence in 2016, was one of the first cases to be transferred from the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) to the children’s court for trial as an adult.
Under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, a minor between the ages of 16 and 18, if found guilty of having committed an offence by a children’s court, can be sent to custody to a place of safety till he/she turns 21 and can thereafter be sent to a maximum prison term of 10 years. So far, while more than 15 cases have been transferred to the special court, this is one of the first judgments in the city under the Act.
The prosecution had alleged that the minor had on February 23, 2016, taken a seven-year-old boy from his neighbourhood to an isolated railway compound on the pretext of playing. At the spot, the minor, along with an accomplice, also a minor, sexually abused the victim, said the police.
Police added that since the victim was threatened against disclosing the incident to anyone, he did not immediately tell his parents about the abuse. Police claimed that after the victim informed his father the next day, an FIR was filed against both the minors under sections 377 (unnatural sex) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
Within months, the minor’s case was transferred to the children’s court for trial by the JJB, after it concluded in a preliminary assessment that the minor was capable of committing the offence and knowing its consequences. The minor had contested the transfer, claiming that despite a low score in an IQ test conducted him at a civic hospital he was sent to be tried as an adult. The children’s court, however, had rejected his plea stating that the decision to transfer was taken by the board in presence of both the principal magistrate and the social worker. During the trial, the minor had submitted that he was falsely implicated and there was no evidence to show his involvement in the case. He had also submitted that the minor apprehended along with him was tried by the JJB and was subsequently acquitted in the case.
On Monday, the special court pronounced that the minor was acquitted of all charges against him. Lodged in the Dongri Observation Home since 2016, the child in conflict with law will be released from the home.