Juvenile Justice Act was passed by the Parliament of India in 2015, it replaced the Indian Juvenile Delinquency law, Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, and allowed juveniles in conflict with Law within the age group of 16–18 which were involved in Heinous Offencesto be tried as adults.
Siddhart Sharma was an IT profession and just the age of 32 when he lost his life due to a hit-and-run by a juvenile driving a Merc wh
o was just 4 days short of 18 years.
The Juvenile Justice Actallows a juvenile to escape being treated as an adult in grave offences such as homicide not amounting to murderas these crimes do not carry a minimum sentence. The Supreme Court on 9th January, 2020 held that a “gross mistake” had been committed by the framers of the act.
In JJ Act offences with a minimum of seven years punishment of imprisonment are termed as “heinous” in which a minor above the age of 16 years and less than 18 can be tried as an adult whereas in cases with no minimum sentence, a juvenile cannot be treated as an adult till the Parliament changes the law.
The court stated that the minor could not be treated as an adult because of an “unfortunate gap” in the law.A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose gave the verdict and granted relief to the minor accused in the 2016 Mercedes hit-and-run case in New Delhi in which a person lost his life.
In the JJ Act the offences have three categories:
- First, Petty Offences ( in which maximum punishment is imprisonment up to three years)
- Second, Serious Offences ( which involves 3 to 7 years of imprisonment)
- Third, Heinous Offences ( which has minimum of 7 years of punishment)
Homicide not amounting to murder or abetment to suicide etc. falls under a fourth category where the maximum sentence is more than seven years, stated by court.
A minor above the age of 16, who has mental and physical capacity to commit a heinous crime and has the ability to understand its consequences can be tried as an adult.
The bench stated that, “We hold that an offence which does not provide a minimum sentence of seven years cannot be treated to be a heinous offence. However, in view of what we have held, the Act does not deal with the fourth category of offences – where the maximum sentence is more than seven years imprisonment but no minimum sentence or minimum sentence of less than seven years is provided,”.
The court held the opinion that a differentiation needs to be maintained as some offences will not fall in the heinous category and stated that, “How and in what manner a juvenile who commits such offences should be dealt with is something that the legislature should have clearly spelt out in the Act. There is an unfortunate gap. We cannot fill the gap by saying that these offences should be treated as heinous offences,”.
Treating a childas an adult is an exception to the rule, the Juvenile Justice Act is for the purpose of protection of children. The Juvenile Justice Board in 2016 was of the view that he had committed a heinous offence and therefore should be prosecuted as an adult but the Delhi HC in May 2019 held that since no minimum sentence was provided for the offence in question, it did not fall within the ambit of the JJ Act and overruled the board’s decision.
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This post is written by Kashish Sandha. For more info, dial 99888-17966.