As a fallout of the Delhi gang rape incident, in which one of the accused is a juvenile, the Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Union government on a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to amend the Juvenile Justice Act. The petition called for amending the Act to insert a provision whereby an exception is mentioned regarding the non-applicability of the Act, qua juvenility, depending upon the facts and circumstances of a particular case, irrespective of the age of the accused i.e. below 18 years.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra also issued notice to the Delhi government on the petition filed by advocate Salil Bali. It also issued notice on another petition filed by novelist and computer engineer Shilpa Arora Sharma that sought the appointment of a criminal psychologist to determine through clinical and medical examination if the juvenile accused in the case would be a threat to society and women if allowed to walk free.

In her plea, Mr. Bali said: “In the Delhi incident, one of the accused is aged about 17 years i.e. below 18 years and as per the prevailing law has been treated as a juvenile and kept in some reformatory school/ borstal jail. Not only this, as per the prevailing law the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, his trial also would be conducted separately and if found guilty he would be kept in a reformatory school/ borstal jail only maximum up to 3 years.”

He added that since in the Act no parameter about the physical or mental maturity of a juvenile was mentioned, it gave licence to “all matured, cruel type of persons under the age of 18 years to live with full impunity and commit any crime of any level and walk scot free only on the basis of their age being less than 18 years and being covered under the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act.”

Significance of amendment

According to Mr. Bali, the issue assumed “public significance” as such a “juvenile would make mockery of law and would walk free without any appropriate punishment and fair trial as far as the victim is concerned.”

Thus the Delhi gang rape case was an example that, Mr. Bali said, should be “taken into consideration by the official respondents to immediately carry out amendments in the definition of juvenility and insert appropriate exceptions which would cover the facts and circumstances of that case and which would include the gravity and heinousness involved in that particular case along with the level of maturity and understanding of that particular offence by the juvenile concerned.”

“The insertion of the exception is the need of the hour as the law on this aspect is totally silent and people would use the silence of law to their benefit as has been done in the Delhi incident,” he said.

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