THE Supreme Court on Monday favoured changes in Juvenile Law to have a nexus between the nature of crime and the age of juvenility so as to make sure not to let all delinquents go scot-free only because they are under 18. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit took note of the submissions by the Attorney General that the Juvenile Law 2014 has already been introduced in the Lok Sabha and the new law seeks to alter the way delinquent juveniles between 16-18 years are dealt with.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the bench that under the new law, a juvenile accused of grave crime will be sent up for trial in a children’s court, which will be equivalent to a sessions court in terms of powers. “They will be housed in a place of safety and the children’s court would periodically assess them. When such delinquents turn 21, the court would make a final assessment whether they should be released or be sent to a regular jail for completing remainder of their jail terms,” law officers submitted.
They said that the Bill has been introduced in the Parliament but the final shape would emerge only after both the Houses deliberate upon it. Expressing satisfaction over the government’s effort, the bench cited laws in various countries that had traversed from being “age-oriented to crime-oriented.” It said that keeping in view the spurt in crimes committed by juveniles, it was imperative that the nature of offence must have some nexus with the age in question since the society deserved respect for life, liberty and dignity. Listing the matter for second week of January, the bench said it hoped the Attorney General would communicate the concerns of the court to all stakeholders.
The bench was hearing an appeal by the CBI against a Calcutta High Court order, declaring a man, accused in a mass murder case, as juvenile. The man was found to be 17 years and 6 months old at the time of the commission of the alleged offence and the HC had said he ought to be sent to a juvenile court. The January 2011 incident had witnessed suspected CPM cadres killing nine villagers in West Midnapore in West Bengal.