SC asks Parliament to fill gap in juvenile justice law

Credit: PTI File Photo

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Parliament or executive to take a call as early as possible to fill up “an unfortunate gap” in Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 which did not deal with those offences where the maximum sentence was more than seven years imprisonment, but no minimum sentence was prescribed.

After the infamous gang rape and murder of ‘Nirbhaya’ in Delhi in December 2012, involving a minor as an accused, the 2015 law was passed, opening the possibility of a trial of a child above 16 years as an adult in case of heinous offences.

A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose noted the lacunae in the law while rejecting a plea by Shilpa Mittal against a Delhi HC judgement, which had dismissed her petition to try a juvenile as an adult for causing the death of her 33-year-old brother by over-speeding Mercedes Benz car here in April 2016. Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing for an accused, pointed out the definition of heinous offences as given in the law did not deal with a category of offences where the minimum sentence was less than seven years, or where there was no minimum sentence prescribed but the maximum sentence was more than seven years.

He said some of these offences related to abetment, but they also included those under Section 121A (conspiracy to commit offences), 122 (waging war against the country) of IPC, and offences relating to counterfeiting of currency, homicide not amounting to murder etc.

The court said the scheme of the 2015 law was that children should be protected and “treating children as adults is an exception to the rule”.

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