Juvenile-Justice
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This article is written by Anushka Yadav from the Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University. This is an exhaustive article that deals with the juvenile justice system. It goes through the analysis of the landmark case of Pratap Singh v the State of Jharkhand and the main issues determined. The arguments that determined these issues are analyzed in it.

Introduction 

The juvenile justice system is for providing a special privilege to the children for their vulnerability and innocence. The landmark case of Pratap Singh v the State of Jharkhand provides for many important analyses on the enhancement of the objective of the juvenile justice system and the rights embedded therein. It also provides for the importance of applicability of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985 (Beijing Rules) in the national juvenile system. 

The importance of the juvenile justice system lies in the fact of increasing crimes done by children. Children are the most vulnerable and can be easily misled. The children are the future of the Nation. These are going to decide the upcoming India. Thus, their protection from the bad social environment and rehabilitation is the need of the nation. Thus, the best possible way of providing rehabilitation should be made available to them. The case of Partap Singh laid down some rules for the adoption of a better way for it. The arguments for the rules are discussed with great intensity in the article. 

The Juvenile Justice Act 

The introduction of the Juvenile Justice system was done nationally in 1986. In 1986, the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act came into force throughout the Nation. Before 1986, the juvenile justice system was restricted to the states in India. There was no nation-wide Act for juvenile justice. Another JJ Act came into force in 2000. The JJ Act of 2000 repealed the JJ Act of 1986. Another JJ (Care and Protection of Children) Act came into force in 2015. 

The Acts are aimed at providing the juvenile justice system different from the adult justice system applicable to adult persons (of the age of 18 years or above). It provides for the whole machinery of the juvenile system from setting up of Juvenile Courts to observation homes (for custody of juveniles. 

The objective behind Juvenile Justice 

The objective behind the introduction of the Juvenile Justice Act was to provide better protection and care to the children. Some of the major objectives or aim of the Act are as follows: 

  • The main aim is to provide care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation to the juveniles indulged in crimes (delinquent juveniles). 
  • The social environment of a child may be such that it may mislead the innocent mind of the child. The children are the most vulnerable. Their minds are innocent and they could be easily misguided. So, the social environment of children is to be focused more than the intensity of crime done by him. This is the objective of the Act. The Act focuses on delinquent and neglected children. It is for protecting such children. 
  • The Act also focuses on the introduction of an informal system to provide care, protection and treatment to the children. Welfare agencies for children are focused on. 
  • The system of justice that applies to adults is too harsh to apply to the children. Thus, the Act focuses on the introduction of a different system for juvenile justice. Different norms and regulations are to be introduced by the Act for the protection of the children. 
  • The prevention of children accused of any crime should not be in jails or police lock-up. The Act aims at the prevention of children in juvenile homes. 

Facts of Pratap Singh Case

Case name – Pratap Singh v. the State of Jharkhand, 2005 

Court – Supreme Court of India 

Appellant name – Pratap Singh 

Respondent name – State of Jharkhand 

Date of the decision – 2nd February 2005 

The facts of Pratap Singh v. the State of Jharkhand, 2005, were as follows: 

  • There was a person named Pratap Singh who was accused of being involved in a conspiracy with others for abducting and murdering the deceased by poisoning as per Sections 364A, 302/201, and 120B of the Indian Penal Code. The date of occurrence, i.e., the date of committing the offence, was 31st December 1998. 
  • On being accused, he was arrested and produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM). The date of production before the Court was on 22nd November 1999. When the accused was produced before the Court, he was 18 years old. 
  • A petition was filed in the Court of CJM on the behalf of the accused on 28th February 2000 claiming that he was a juvenile (i.e., below the age of 16 years) on the date of occurrence (i.e., 31st December 1998). 
  • On the petition, the C.J.M. transferred the case to the Juvenile Court and the accused was produced before the Juvenile Court on 3rd March 2000. The Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) ordered the parties to produce evidence of the minority before it. The parties were asked to produce ‘School leaving certificate’ and the ‘mark sheet of the Central Board of Secondary Education as evidence’. The certificate was produced before the court and the date of birth of the accused recorded on it was 18th December 1983. Thus, based on this evidence produced, it was held that the accused was a minor of below 16 years on the date of occurrence of the crime (i.e., 31st December 1998). 
  • The accused was released on bail by ACJM after the proof of his minority. 
  • The informant was aggrieved by the decision of the ACJM and filed an appeal before the first Additional Session Judge (ASJ) for the determination of the age of juvenility of the accused. 
  • The Additional Session Judge (ASJ) quashed the decision of the Juvenile Court. It was held that the Juvenile Court was wrong in its decision. The date of production of the accused before the Court is the date for the determination of the age of juvenility and not the date of occurrence of crime. Such a decision was made by referring to the case of Amit Das v. the State of Bihar, (2000). The Court also directed a fresh injury for the determination of the age of the accused. 
  • The accused filed a criminal revision petition in the Jharkhand High Court. The Jharkhand High Court held that the decision of the Additional Session Judge was right. The points observed by the High Court were as follows: 
  • That the date of production before the court is the correct date for the determination of the age of the juvenile. 
  • That for determining the age of the accused, the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act of 1986 shall be applied and not the JJ Act of 2000. 
  • That to produce evidence for the determination of the age of juvenility, ‘school certificate’ is the best evidence. Other pieces of evidence are of inferior quality. 
  • The accused filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of India. The case was referred to a five-judge bench for the determination. The Supreme Court gave its decision in the case in 2005. 

Issues Determined 

After the case reached the Supreme Court, the Court decided the issues to be determined by it. There were two issues or questions before the Court. 

Issue 1 

Question 

The first issue was the determination of the age of juvenility. Whether the date of occurrence (i.e., date of committing the crime by the accused) is the correct date for the determination of the age of juvenility of the date of production (i.e., date of production of the accused before the Court? 

If a person A is below 16 years on the date of committing a crime and afterwards on the date on production before the Court, he attains the age above 16 years, in this case, whether he would still be considered as a juvenile or not? 

In the case of Pratap Singh v. the State of Jharkhand, the accused Pratap Singh was of the age of below 16 years at the date when he committed the crime but he reached the age of 18 years on the date of production before the court. The SC was to determine whether the accused would be still a juvenile for the proceedings or the adult justice system would be applied to him. 

Judicial Precedent 

The conflict arose between two judgments of the High Courts. The decision of the Jharkhand High Court was based on the judgment of Amit Das v. The State of Bihar, (2000) 5 SCC 488. But there was another judgment of Umesh Chandra v. The State of Rajasthan, (1982) 2 SCC 202 which is contrary to the decision of Amit Das Case. Thus, the Supreme Court was to upheld one of these judgments as valid and quash the other. 

Amit Das v State of Bihar 

The case of Amit Das v State of Bihar, (2000) 5 SCC 488 provides that the date on which the accused is produced before the Court is the correct date for the determination of the age of the juvenile and not the date of occurrence. Thus, according to the decision, the decision of the Jharkhand HC is supported. 

Umesh Chandra v State of Rajasthan 

Another case of Umesh Chandra v State of Rajasthan, (1982) 2 SCC 202 provides that the date of occurrence of crime is the correct date for the determination of the age of the juvenile and not the date of production before the Court. 

Arguments 

The arguments that were taken into account while determining the issue by the Supreme Court were as follows:

  • The objective and aim of the JJ Act of 1986 were taken into account by the Supreme Court. The aim is to protect children indulged in committing crimes. The main aim was to provide care and protection to the children. The aims and objectives were to protect delinquent children. The delinquent child would be destroyed if he was a minor at the time of the commission of the crime and attained the age of majority subsequently.
  • The Supreme Court found that the Act was a social legislation. The objective of the Act is social. The interpretation of the Act should be such as to advance the cause of legislation and not to restrict its wider objective.
  • Section 2 (e) of the 1986 Act defines “delinquent juvenile” as “a juvenile who has been found to have committed an offence”. Section 2 (1) of the 2000 Act defines the term “juvenile in conflict with law” as “a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence”. Both the Acts define a juvenile in conflict with the law as a child who has committed a crime. It makes clear that the date of occurrence is the date of committing a crime which makes a juvenile in conflict with the law and not the subsequent date of his production before the courts.
  • Section 32 of the 1986 Act provides for the “presumption and determination of age”. The Section provides that the competent authorities are to make an injury to determine the age of a juvenile. It was argued that the injury could be started on the date of production of the juvenile in the court and thus the date of production is the correct date for the determination of the age of the juvenile. 

But Section 2 (e) of the Act clearly defines the meaning of delinquent juvenile as a juvenile who has committed an offence and not a juvenile who has been produced before the Court for proceedings.

  • In Section 18 of the 1986 Act, the procedure for the “bail and custody of juveniles” is provided. The Section deals with the procedure to be adopted after the arrest of a juvenile. According to this Section, if a juvenile is arrested then he shall be released on bail and if reasonable grounds exist for not releasing him on bail then he shall be kept in observation homes and not police stations. 

A juvenile is arrested after the occurrence of crime. Section 18 provides a clear procedure for such juveniles. Thus, the determination of the age of juveniles should be done from the date of the occurrence of crime.

  • Section 3 of the 1986 Act provides for the “continuation of inquiry in respect of a juvenile who has ceased to be a juvenile”. The Section provides that if a juvenile during the process of inquiry into his age of juvenility ceases to be a juvenile then such inquiry shall be continued. The continuation of inquiry even when the juvenile ceases to be juvenile makes it clear that the age of juvenile is to be determined on the date of occurrence and not on the date of production because it is possible that till the date of production, the juvenile ceases to be juvenile.
  • Section 26 of the 1986 Act provides for the “special provision in respect of pending cases”. Section 26 provides for the applicability of this Act on the suits pending when the Act came into force. 

This makes clear that the objective of the Act is providing benefits to juveniles. Thus, interpreting it in the right way that could enhance its objective is the correct way of interpretation.

  • In the case of Umesh Chandra v. the State of Rajasthan, (1982) 2 SCC 202, the court observed that the Acts related to juvenile justice are a social piece of legislation. Thus, the liberal interpretation must be followed to enhance the main objective of “providing benefit to the juveniles” of the Act.
  • The fact that the Act is applicable from the date of occurrence (referring to Section 3 and 18 of the Act), makes it clear that the date of occurrence is the correct date for determining the age of the juvenile.

advocate

End Result

The result of the argument was that the Supreme Court held the judgment of Umesh Chandra v State of Rajasthan, (1982) 2 SCC 202 as the correct rule for the determination of the age of the juvenile. Thus, the date of occurrence was held as the correct date for the determination of the age of the juvenile and not the date of production, by the Supreme Court of India.

Issue 2

Question

The second issue before the Supreme Court was the determination of the applicability of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act of 2000 on the pending suits from the date of its enforcement (i.e., 1st April 2001). Before the JJ Act of 2000, the proceedings were filed under the JJ Act of 1985. The question was that the provisions of the JJ Act of 2000 would apply to the pending suits which were filed under the JJ Act of 1985 or the provisions of the 1985 Act would remain applicable.

The accused Prakash Singh’s case was filed under the Act of 1985. But when it reached the Supreme Court, another Act of 2000 was passed and enforced on 1st April 2001. And the case of the accused was still not finalized. Thus, the SC was to determine whether the provisions of the JJ Act 1985 would remain applicable to the case or the new provisions of the JJ Act 2000 would apply to it?

Arguments

The arguments which were taken into account while deciding the second issue of the case by the Supreme Court were as follows:

  • The main distinction between the Act of 1986 and the Act of 2000 was the wider scope of benefits provided to the juveniles by the Act of 2000 than the Act of 1986. Section 2 (h) of the 1986 Act provides that the age of juveniles for males is below 16 years and for females, it is below 18 years. But Section 2 (k) of the 2000 Act provides that the age of juvenility is below 18 years for both males and females.

The main objective of the Act of 1986 was to provide the benefit, care, and protection to the juveniles. If the provisions of the 2000 Act are applied on the pending suits of the 1986 Act then it would enhance the objective of the 1986 Act. 

  • The Act of 2000 repeals the Act of 1986 under Section 69 (1) of the Act. The learned counsel from the part of the informant argued that since the Act of 2000 repeals the Act of 1986 then the suits filed under the Act of 1986 should not be finalized through the provisions of the 2000 Act. 

But Section 69 (2) of the 2000 Act provides that whatever actions were taken or done under the Act of 1986 are deemed if they were taken under the Act of 2000. Thus, the provisions of the Act of 1986 are replaced by the Act of 2000. Whatever suits were filed under the Act of 1986 are deemed as if filed under the Act of 2000. This makes the provisions of the 2000 Act applicable to the pending suits of the 1986 Act. 

  • Section 20 of the 2000 Act provides for the “special provisions in respect of pending cases”. The Section provides that the finalization of the pending suits of the 1986 Act is to be done through the provisions of the 2000 Act.
  • Section 3 of the 2000 Act provides for the “continuation of inquiry in respect of a juvenile who has ceased to be a juvenile”. It provides that the inquiry for the determination of the age of juvenile shall be continued even if the accused ceases to be a juvenile during the inquiry. 

Thus, if the accused attains the age of above 16 years then also the inquiry regarding the determination of his age shall continue. For the Act, if the juvenile reaches the age of above 18 years then also the inquiry shall be continued. 

  • Section 64 of the 2000 Act provides that the juveniles who were sentenced before the commencement of the Act and were still undergoing that sentence, are to be sent to special homes. 

This provision of the Act makes it clear that the provisions of the Act are even applicable to the finalized suits of which sentence was going on at its commencement. Thus, the Act is no doubt also applicable to the pending suits at its commencement. 

Rule 62 (1) provides that the benefits of the Act shall be applied to every juvenile in conflict with the law or a child. 

Rule 62 (2) provides that the pending cases shall be finalized through the applicability of the provisions of the Act.

Rule 62 (3) provides that the benefits of the Act are also applicable to the juvenile who ceases to be a juvenile during the proceedings. 

This makes clear the applicability of the Act of 2000 on the pending cases on the date of its enforcement (i.e., 1st April 2001). 

  • The Supreme Court referred to the case of Upendra Kumar v. State of Bihar for determining the applicability of the Act. In the case, it was observed that the benefits of the Act which is in force apply to every juvenile and they cannot be denied of it. Thus, the SC observed the applicability of the Act of 2000 on the pending suits as the correct law.

End Result

The result of the argument was that the Supreme Court held the applicability of the provisions of the Act of 2000 as the right rule on the pending suits of the Act of 1986. It was observed that it would enhance the objective of the Act of 1986. It would enhance the protection and care to be provided by the way of application of the Act of 2000.

Applicability of UN Standard Minimum Rules

The Apex Court in Pratap Singh case observed that the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985 (also known as Beijing Rules) shall be applicable in the juvenile administration of India.

Main Provisions 

The main provisions of the UN Standard Minimum Rules are as follows:

  • They apply to every juvenile, irrespective of their nationality, gender, language, religion, or caste. Thus, these are the international rules that provide common provisions for all nations. They are not restricted in any way in their applicability. Any nation can adopt these rules for its administration of the juvenile justice system.
  • The second main provision is regarding the factors of determination of the extent of the penalty. The social circumstances or the environment in which the child is brought out shall be focused on the purpose of proceedings in case he has done any offence. The gravity or intensity of the offence committed is only one factor. The factor of the circumstances of crime should also be focused in the case of children committing that offence.
  • The Rules provide that the system and institutions of adult justice are not suitable for juvenile justice. Thus, a different system and alternatives of institutionalization shall be provided for the protection of juveniles.
  • It is provided that the best efforts shall be made to avoid the sentence to be applied to juveniles. Penalizing is the deprivation of liberty and it should be the last option in the juvenile justice system. The efforts of the fulfillment of their development needs and the rehabilitation should be done first. 

Rights of Juveniles

Rule 7 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules, 1985 provides for the following rights of juveniles:

  1. It is the right of a juvenile that he shall be presumed as innocent for the prosecution.
  2. The notifications on the charges shall be provided to the juvenile.
  3. If the juvenile remains silent during the investigation or prosecution, then it is his right and he shall not be forced to speak. 
  4. It is the right of the juvenile that he shall be provided with proper counselling.
  5. The prosecution of a juvenile shall be done in the presence of a guardian or parent. It is his right if he is comfortable in this condition.
  6. It is the right of a juvenile to have confrontation and cross-examination of the witnesses.
  7. It is also a right that he can appeal to higher authorities if he is not satisfied with the decision.

Conclusion

The case of Pratap Singh v State of Jharkhand was one of the landmark cases on the subject of juvenile justice. The enhancement of the care and protection provided to the juveniles was focused on in the case. The deep analysis of the case draws out the conclusion that the significance of the development of children is one of the development aspects of the nation. The constitutional provisions supporting this aspect are enriched under Article 21 and 39 (f) of the Indian Constitution

However, the increase in crime rates done by juveniles is a serious threat to the country. Some juveniles are found to be indulged in heinous crimes like rape and murder. The Nirbhaya case is one such example that draws serious attention to the issue. This led to the introduction of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act in 2015. The JJ Act of 2015 provides that the juvenile found to be indulged in the heinous crimes shall be treated as the adult and the proceedings of the adult justice system shall be applied to him. He would not be subjected to the benefits of the JJ Act. This measure was taken as a deterrent for the prevention of the indulgence of juveniles in heinous crimes.

This shows that there are always two sides of a coin and both sides are to be analyzed adequately for maintaining the balance between both. 

References


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