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NEW DELHI, August 9, 2011
The Supreme Court on Monday held that the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, making it mandatory that cases against juveniles be referred to the Juvenile Justice Board, could be invoked at the instance of the affected person even after the final conviction is rendered by a court.
Giving this ruling, a Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan ordered the release of a convict, a juvenile at the time of commission of offence and who was sentenced to life imprisonment. It held that he had already served 12 years in jail, as against the sentence of three years provided under the JJCPC Act.
Justice Sathasivam, writing the judgment, pointed out that under Section 7A of the Act, the claim of juvenility could be raised before any court at any stage, even after final disposal of the case.
Further, the Bench said: “Section 20 of the JJCPC Act as amended by the Amendment Act, 2006 which provides that even after disposal of cases of juveniles in conflict with law, the State Government or the Board could, either suo motu or on an application made for the purpose, review the case of juvenile, determine the juvenility and pass an appropriate order under Section 64 of the Act for immediate release of the juvenile whose period of detention had exceeded the maximum period provided in Section 15 of the Act i.e. 3 years.”
In the instant case, the petitioner Amit Singh was one of those convicted in a case of dacoity and murder. After the dismissal of the appeal against his conviction by the Supreme Court, he filed a writ petition challenging the life sentence stating that he had already undergone 12 years in jail which was more than the maximum period for which a juvenile might be confined to a special home since he had not attained the age of 18 on the date of the commission of offence.
The Bench said: “Though the conviction and life sentence was confirmed by this Court [on January 5, 2007], the age of the petitioner and the benefit of the Act was not considered by this court. No doubt, this plea and the benefit was not claimed by the petitioner earlier, neither the same was raised before the trial court nor thereafter up to this court.”
Allowing the petition, the Bench said: “From the materials placed, the petitioner had substantiated that he was a juvenile as per the Act and he could be tried only by the Board and hence the matter should be referred before the Board for trial. Under these circumstances, the petitioner is directed to be released from the custody forthwith.”