Bail is the norm and judicial detention in an observation home or any other place of safety is an exception for juveniles in conflict with law whenever they are either produced by the police or appear on their own before a Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), the Madras High Court Bench here has said.
Justice S. Vimala made the observation after expressing surprise over many juveniles approaching the High Court expressing willingness to surrender before the JJBs if a direction was issued to the latter to consider their bail application on the day of surrender itself.
The judge said such a direction was unnecessary since juveniles had a statutory right to obtain bail.
The judge pointed out that Section 12 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act clearly states that when any person accused of a bailable or non-bailable offence and apparently a juvenile was either arrested, detained, brought or appears on his own before a JJB, he should be released on bail, with or without surety, notwithstanding the provisions of any other law.
Stating that the juvenile could also be placed under supervision of a probation officer, a fit institution or an individual, the Section goes on to add: “he shall not be so released if there appear reasonable grounds for believing that the release is likely to bring him into association with any known criminal or expose him to moral, physical or psychological danger or that his release would defeat the ends of justice.”
It was only when there were strong reasons to deny bail that a JJB could order the detention of a juvenile in an observation home or any other place of safety. “Since bail is a matter of right for a juvenile irrespective of the seriousness of the offence, this court is of the view that no such direction as sought for by the petitioner need to be passed by this court,” the judge said.
However, when the petitioner’s father insisted on an order since his school-going son had been booked under Sections 294b (uttering obscene words), 323 (causing hurt voluntarily), 506 part II (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code apart from provisions of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, the judge said the practice of seeking such directions should be discouraged.
Observing that the juvenile justice law works on the principles of restorative justice and puts the best interest of the child first, the judge hoped that the JJB would keep these principles in mind while dealing with bail applications filed by any juvenile in conflict with law.