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SC to examine juvenile law
Legal Correspondent

Notice to Centre
A PIL said some sections of the Juvenile Justice Act “are irrational, arbitrary and ultra vires” of the Constitution
It pleaded for striking down these provisions as they run counter to the Fundamental Right to Life and Equality
The SC has issued notice to the Centre and sought its response

New Delhi, February 4
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to look into the constitutional validity of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, under which criminals below 18 years of age involved in heinous crimes such as rape and murder cannot be tried by regular criminal courts and jailed. Under the Act, such offenders are tried by juvenile justice boards that send them to correction homes for a maximum period of three years.

A Bench of Justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra issued notice to the Centre, seeking its response to a PIL pleading for striking down some provisions of the Act that run counter to Fundamental Right to Life and Equality guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21.

The PIL, filed by advocates Kamal Kumar Pandey and Sukumar, said sections 2(l), 10 and 17 of the Juvenile Justice Act “are irrational, arbitrary and ultra vires” of the Constitution.

Attorney General GE Vahanvati said the Justice JS Verma committee had in its report gone into all these aspects, but had not recommended lowering the age of juveniles from 18 to 16. The Centre had appointed the committee in the wake of the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in Delhi in December 2012.

One of the six accused in the case is a 17-year-old (the most brutal of the lot as per the police chargesheet) and is being tried separately by the Juvenile Board.

The AG said there was need to assess “why he has done what he has done” and whether there was a failure on the part of society. The government also had the option of lowering juvenile age to 16 and leaving the question of whether minor offenders involved in heinous crimes should be taken out of juvenile protection to the judiciary.

He also suggested that the SC involve the states and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the PIL.

The Bench, however, rejected both suggestions. The PIL would be taken up for detailed hearing on April 3.

Meanwhile, an NGO from Haryana has filed a PIL, pleading that only magistrates be allowed to record the statements of accused and witnesses in heinous crimes to improve conviction rate.





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