Juvenile in Dec 16 rape case can't be tried in regular court, SC rules

Juvenile in Dec 16 rape case can't be tried in regular court, SC rules

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the plea by parents of the December 16 Delhi gang rape victim and of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy that the juvenile offender in the case be tried by a regular court and not by the Juvenile Justice Board, which sent him to a correctional home for three years.

A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh passed the order on the petitions challenging the September 2013 decision of the Juvenile Justice Board which, after holding the juvenile offender guilty of rape and murder, sent him to a correctional home for three years – the maximum sentence under the Juvenile Justice Act.

Swamy in his petition contended that those minors who are intellectually, emotionally and mentally mature to understand the implication of serious crimes committed by them should not be covered under the Juvenile Justice Act.

Pronouncing the verdict, Justice Gogoi said courts should not examine the validity of the legislative intent behind a law, including the country’s international commitments, if the statute enacted was in conformity with the constitutional provisions.

“If the provisions of the act clearly indicate the legislative intent in the light of the country’s international commitments and the same is in conformity with the constitutional requirements, it is not necessary for the court to understand the legislation in any other manner,” said Justice Gogoi said speaking for the bench.

“If the Juvenile Justice Act is plainly read and understood, which we must do, the resultant effect thereof is wholly consistent with Article 14 of the Constitution. The act, therefore, need not be read down, as suggested, to save it from the vice of unconstitutionality for such unconstitutionality does not exist,” the court said.

Dismissing the appeal by Swamy and others, including the parents of the “unfortunate victim of the crime”, the court said, “We would like to observe that elaborate statistics have been laid before us to show the extent of serious crimes committed by juveniles and the increase in the rate of such crimes, of late. We refuse to be tempted to enter into the said arena which is primarily for the legislature to consider.”

“Courts must take care not to express opinions on the sufficiency or adequacy of such figures and should confine its scrutiny to the legality and not the necessity of the law to be made or continued,” the judgement said.

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