SC asks Centre to explain Juvenile Justice Act

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to explain if the gravity of the  offence committed should be considered before granting immunity to juveniles from criminal prosecution.

A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra asked the Attorney General to file a comprehensive response to a public interest litigation challenging the constitutional validity of the provision under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, defining all offenders below 18 years of age as juvenile.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati submitted that the issue regarding the age and culpability of juveniles had been dealt extensively by the Justice J S Verma panel in its report.

The court, however, said it wanted to deal with the issue from the judicial side.

Petition

The PIL filed by advocates Kamal Kumar Pandey and Sukumar urged the court to declare certain provisions of the Act as violative of fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.

The advocate duo, agitated by the possibility of one of the six accused in the December 16 Delhi gang-rape case getting away lightly after being declared a minor, had approached the apex court, urging it to declare the definition of juvenile under the Act as ultra vires.

Constitutional validity

Concurring with questions raised in the PIL, the bench told Vahanvati, “We are on the constitutional validity of these provisions in question. This is your law and they will have to be tested on the anvil of Articles 14 and 21.”

Vahanvati said it will be significant to find out why the juvenile offender in the recent incident had committed the crime.The court told the AG to file a detailed counter affidavit to the petition by March 30 and posted the matter for further hearing on April 3.

The court had earlier issued notice to the Centre on a similar petition filed by  Chandigarh-based advocate Salil Bali.

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