Supreme Court declines to entertain PIL on new juvenile law

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday declined to entertain a PIL filed by a Congress leader and activist challenging the constitutional validity of the recently-passed juvenile law that allows delinquent minors of 16 years of age and above to be tried as adults if they commit heinous offences like rape and murder.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, cleared in the winter session of Parliament, repeals and recasts the old Act. A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur questioned the locus of the petitioner saying "it may be challenged by somebody who is convicted or affected by the new legislation".

The bench, also comprising justices R Banumathi and U U Lalit, did not agree with senior advocate Salman Khurshid that a larger issue was involved in the matter and a traumatic situation has arisen due to the decision taken on the issue which is contrary to the law prevailing in other countries.

However, the bench said to go into the issue, the petitioner must have to show that there is a violation of fundamental right. The bench allowed the senior advocate to withdraw the PIL saying it can be filed on behalf of somebody who is affected and not privately like this.

The PIL, filed by Congress leader and activist Tahseen Poonawalla, said the new law is unreasonable, arbitrary and in violation of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.

It challenged section 15 of the new Act which says in case of a heinous offence alleged to have been committed by a child, who has completed or is above the age of 16 years, the Juvenile Justice Board shall conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult.

The plea said the impugned amended Act is 'draconian and unconstitutional' which instead of providing care and protection to children deems them as adult in cases where the alleged commission of crime by them is heinous in nature.

It further said that the amendment goes against the letter and spirit of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is against the protection accorded to Child and adolescent criminals since 1800s.

On January 4, the President accorded his assent to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. The Act also allows that any 16-18 year olds who commits a less serious offence may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years.

As soon as a child alleged to be in conflict with the law is apprehended by police, such a child shall be placed under the charge of the special juvenile police unit or the designated child welfare police officer who shall produce the child before the Juvenile Justice Board without any loss of time but within a period of 24 hours of apprehending the child.

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