Delhi gangrape: SC paves way for juvenile board verdict

New Delhi, Aug 22 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday allowed the Juvenile Justice Board to go ahead with pronouncing its verdict on the alleged involvement of a juvenile accused in the Dec 16, 2012 Delhi gangrape.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi, however, said it would examine the larger issue of immunity granted to a juvenile accused involved in heinous offences from being tried under the normal criminal laws.

"...it is now open for the Board to proceed further in the matter and render such orders, in accordance with law, as may be considered just, adequate and proper," said Justice Gogoi.

The court said that the government plea objecting to the locus standi of the BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in the matter will not stand in the way of its considering the larger issue of immunity for a delinquent.

The court accepted Swamy's submission that reference to Dec 16, 2012 juvenile accused was mere incidental and illustrative and his plea was on the large question of interpretation of provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

Section 2(k) of the Act defines "juvenile" as a person who has not completed 18 year of age. Section 2(l) of the Act defines "juvenile in conflict with law" as a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence.

"In fact, interpretation of the relevant provisions of the JJ Act in any manner by this court, if made, will not be confined to the first respondent (juvenile accused in the Dec 16, 2012 case) alone but will have an effect on all juveniles who may come into conflict with law both in the immediate and distant future," the court said.

"We are of the view that it would be appropriate for us to hold that the special leave petition does not suffer from the vice of absence of locus standi on the part of the petitioners so as to render the same not maintainable in law," the court said.

Issuing notice to the government on Swamy's plea, the court said: "We will proceed to hear the special leave petition on merits and attempt to provide an answer to the several questions raised by the petitioners before us."

Swamy has sought incorporation in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 that the ceiling of juveniles' age at 18 years had to be read with the emotional and intellectual level of the accused. This effectively means that it needed to be examined in each case whether or not the juvenile accused while committing a crime was aware of its consequences.

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