Heinous crimes by minors: SC wonders whether Juvenile Act has subserved its objective


Supreme Court | Photo: AP

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday took note of brutal and heinous crimes committed by juveniles and said that it makes them wonder whether the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 has subserved its object, as it holds that one of the accused should be tried as an adult and not as a minor offender in Kathua rape case relying on the medical evidence to determine the age.

"The manner, in which brutal and heinous crimes have been committed over a period of time by the juveniles and still continue to be committed, makes us wonder whether the Act, 2015 hassubserved its object," a bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and JB Pardiwala said while holding that one of the accused will be treated as an adult in the Kathua rape case.

The court observed that on the basis of the physical, dental and radiological examination, the approximate age of the accused could be fixed between 19 and 23 years.

The court also passed various comments in its 66-page order and said that it would like to observe that the rising rate of juvenile delinquency in India is a matter of concern and requires immediate attention.

"There is a school of thought, existing in our country that firmly believes that howsoever heinous the crime may be, be it single rape, gangrape, drug peddling or murder but if the accused is a juvenile, he should be dealt with keeping in mind only one thing i.e., the goal of reformation," the court said.

"The school of thought, we are talking about believes that the goal of reformation is ideal. The manner, in which brutal and heinous crimes have been committed over a period of time by juveniles and still continue to be committed, makes us wonder whether the Act, 2015 hassubserved its object," the court said.

"We have started gathering an impression that the leniency with which the juveniles are dealt with in the name of the goal of reformation is making them more and more emboldened in indulging in such heinous crimes," the court said.

"It is for the Government to consider whether its enactment of 2015 has proved to be effective or something still needs to be done in the matter before it is too late in the day," the court added.

The court allowed the appeal prefered by Jammu and Kashmir administration and set aside orders passed by the CJM, Kathua and the High Court.

"We have made ourselves very clear that the documents evidencing date of birth do not inspire any confidence and there is no other option but to fall back on the report of the Special Medical Board in the interest of justice. In the overall view of the matter, we are convinced that the order passed by the High Court affirming the CJM's order is not sustainable in law," the top court said.

The court held that the respondent accused was not a juvenile at the time of the commission of the offence and should be tried the way other co-accused were tried in accordance with the law.

"Law to take its own course," the court said as it noted that "There is no good reason why we should overlook or ignore or doubt the credibility of the final opinion given by a team of five qualified doctors, one from the Department of Physiology, one from the Department ofAnatomy, one from the Department of Oral Diagnosis, one from the Department of Forensic Medicine and one from the Department of Radio Diagnosis, all saying in one word that on the basis of the physical, dental and radiological examination, the approximate age of the respondent could be fixed between 19 and 23 years."

The court also took note of various techniques to determine age across the world.

The court was hearing the Jammu and Kashmir administration's plea challenging its High Court order dated October 11, 2019.

Jammu and Kashmir High Court on October 11, 2019, dismissed the plea challenging order passed by the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Kathua on March 27, 2018, declaring to treat the accused in this case as a juvenile under the Act of 2013. The High Court had, however, claimed that the trial Court had not committed any illegality or impropriety which would warrant any interference in this revision petition.

The case pertains to 2018 when an eight-year-old girl, belonging to a nomadic Muslim tribe, was abducted, drugged, gang-raped, tortured and killed on January 10 in the Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir.

A Pathankot court on Monday convicted mastermind Sanji Ram and two others for murder, gang rape, and conspiracy and sentenced them to life imprisonment while three police officials were found guilty of destroying evidence and given five-year jail terms.

In January 2018, the gruesome rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir caused nationwide outrage, a Pathankot court convicted mastermind Sanjhi Ram and two others for murder, gangrape and conspiracy and sentenced them to life imprisonment while three police officials were found guilty of destroying evidence and given five-year jail terms.

The District and Sessions judge had pronounced the three main accused--Sanji Ram, Parvesh Kumar and Deepak Khajuria--guilty and convicted them under Sections 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 376 (d) (gang rape), 328 (Causing hurt by means of poison), 363 (Kidnapping or maiming a minor), 201 (destruction of evidence) and 343 (Wrongful confinement for three or more days) of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC).

Police officials Anand Dutt, Sub Inspector, Tilak Raj (Head Constable) and Surender Verma, Special Police Officer, have been sentenced to five years in jail under section 201 of IPC for causing destruction of evidence. They have also been directed to pay Rs 20,000 each.

(ANI)

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