Advocate challenges SC verdict on juvenile age

Advocate challenges SC verdict on juvenile age

A woman advocate on Thursday filed a curative petition in the Supreme Court for the reconsideration of a July 17 verdict, which turned down a plea to reduce the age of juveniles involved in heinous crimes from the existing 18 to 16 years.

Petitioner Shweta Kapoor urged that the apex court re-look into the definition of minors as provided under Section 2(k) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir (since retired) had dismissed a bunch of PILs on the issue, saying that the juvenile age had been fixed after due deliberation and that the essence of juvenile law was restorative and not retributive.

“Since the provisions of the Act have been misused against women, and juveniles above the age of 16 years have been rampantly found to be involved in crimes against women, particularly in cases falling under Section 376 (rape) and 376(2)(g) (gang-rape) of Indian Penal Code, the state is under a legal obligation to make a suitable law so that women are protected. Juveniles who commit such crimes after attaining the age of 16 years should be treated like ordinary criminals,” the petitioner pleaded.

Kapoor contended that serious offences committed by persons after reaching the age of 16 years had to be treated differently and should not be tried under Section 15 (three years confinement in a special home) of the Act.

She said that Section 16 of the Act envisaged a different class of juveniles who have committed serious offences and cannot be kept in special homes. There can be no justification to treat a person of the age of 17 years and 364 days differently from another person committing the same crime but at the age of 18 years and one day, Kapoor argued.

Such a provision is liable to be declared as ultra vires the provisions of Article 14 (equality), Sections 15 (equality before law), 21 (life and liberty), 38 (state to secure a social order for welfare of people) and the Preamble of the Constitution, Kapoor said.

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