New Delhi, Jul 1 (ILNS) The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the response of the State of Uttar Pradesh on a petition filed by 13 Juvenile Prisoners, seeking their immediate release against their incarceration ranging from 14 to 22 years in jail, despite the clear finding of the Juvenile Justice Board that they were juvenile at the time of the crime.
A Bench led by Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice V Ramasubramanian issued notice to the state government and asked them to reply within a week. The Court allowed the dasti service of the notice( to be delivered by hand through a messenger)
According to the petition, a bare perusal of section 7(a) of juvenile justice act 2000 for a claim of juvenility to be raised before any court at any stage even after final disposal of a case and section 20 juvenile justice act 2000 enables the Court to consider and determine the juvenility of a person even after conviction by the regular court and also empowers the Court, while maintaining the conviction to set aside the sentence imposed and forward the case to the Juvenile Board.
The petitioners moved to the apex court seeking to highlight unchallenged rulings from Juvenile Justice Board wherein the petitioners have been declared Juveniles with clear findings that they were all below the age limit of 18 years, yet no steps have been taken to release them.
The petitioner mentioned that a 3 Judges Bench had given its decision in a previous case in “Abuzar Hussain Vs. State of West Bengal, 2012 (10) SCC 489” wherein the the court had held, “A claim of juvenility may be raised at any stage even after the final disposal of the case. It may be raised for the first time before this Court as well after the final disposal of the case. The delay in raising the claim of juvenility cannot be a ground for rejection of such claim. The claim of juvenility can be raised in appeal even if not pressed before the Trial Court and can be raised for the first time before this Court though not pressed before the Trial Court and in the Appeal Court.”
In the background of the matter, petitioners have mentioned that in year 2012, the Allahabad High Court while entertaining a PIL had noted that there were many prisoners who were languishing in different jails in the State of Uttar Pradesh who were juvenile and passed directions to hold an inquiry by the concerned Juvenile Justice Board for determination of their age as on the date of the respected incident.
As per the directions of the High Court Juvenile Justice Board constituted which after the inquiry held as many as 13 prisoners who were languishing in Agra Central Jail were below the age of 18 years during the commission of the offense and held them juvenile as per the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) (Amendment) Act, 2006.
The plea mentioned that it is unfortunate that despite a categorical order declaring these petitioners as Juvenile, the petitioners are languishing in Jail, Agra having undergone custody ranging from 14 years to 22 years.
Further it stated that though in majority of the cases their statutory criminal appeal are pending before the High Court against their conviction under various IPC offences, but the necessity and the need of hour is to immediate direct release of these petitioners in view of the fact that not only they are declared juvenile but they have already undergone a maximum period of detention provided u/s 15 read with section 16 of the JJ Act, 2000 viz 3 years.
In the backdrop the petition has raised several question of law to be decided by the Apex Court as to whether once the competent Juvenile Justice Board has held the petitioners to be juvenile, they should be released forthwith from the judicial custody as per the provisions of Juvenile Justice Act, 2000?
Whether the continue detention of the petitioners in jail amounts to illegal custody as the same is in violation of the provisions of Juvenile Justice Act?
Whether the petitioners who have been declared juvenile ought to be release forthwith on bail irrespective of their pendency of appeal before the High Court challenging their conviction in IPC offences?
Furthermore, the plea alleged that there is a clear infringement and violation of the fundamental right of the petitioners envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution in as much as though the petitioners having judgments declaring them as Juveniles are actually undergoing illegal detentions as on date.
The petition, filed by Advocate on Record (AOR) Rishi Malhotra, prayed from the Apex Constitutional Court to pass necessary orders of releasing the children forthwith within the spirit of Article 21 of the Constitution. The matter will now be heard on July 8. ILNS/KR/RJ/SNG