NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK
This appeal raises certain questions which are fundamental to the understanding and implementation of the objects for which the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (hereinafter referred to as the `Juvenile Justice Act, 2000′) was enacted. The said law which was enacted to deal with offences committed by juveniles, in a manner which was meant to be different from the law applicable to adults, is yet to be fully appreciated by those who have been entrusted with the responsibility of enforcing the same, possibly on account of their inability to adapt to a system which, while having the trappings of the general criminal law, is, however, different therefrom. The very scheme of the aforesaid Act is rehabilitatory in nature and not adversarial which the courts are generally used to. The implementation of the said law, therefore, requires a complete change in the mind-set of those who are vested with the authority of enforcing the same, without which it will be almost impossible to achieve the objects of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.
The court ruled that- we are unable to sustain the impugned order of the High Court in holding that the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, would not be applicable to the appellant’s case since he was allegedly 13 days above the age prescribed. In the instant case, the appellant was arrested on 30.11.1998 when the 1986 Act was in force and under Clause (h) of Section 2 a juvenile was described to mean a child who had not attained the age of sixteen years or a girl who had not attained the age of eighteen years. It is with the enactment of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, that in Section 43
Section-2(k) a juvenile or child was defined to mean a child who had not completed eighteen years of age which was given prospective prospect. However, as indicated hereinbefore after the decision in Pratap Singh’s case (supra), Section 2(l) was amended to define a juvenile in conflict with law to mean a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence and has not completed eighteen years of age as on the date of commission of such offence; Section 7A was introduced in the 2000 Act and Section 20 thereof was amended whereas Rule 12 was included in the Juvenile Justice Rules, 2007, which gave retrospective effect to the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. Section 7A of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, made provision for the claim of juvenility to be raised before any Court at any stage, as has been done in this case, and such claim was required to be determined in terms of the provisions contained in the 2000 Act and the Rules framed thereunder, even if the juvenile had ceased to be so on or before the date of commencement of the Act. Accordingly, a juvenile who had not completed eighteen years on the date of commission of the offence was also entitled to the benefits of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, as if the provisions of Section 2(k) had always been in existence even during the operation of the 1986 Act. The said position was re-emphasised by virtue of the amendments introduced in Section 20 of the 2000 Act, whereby the Proviso and Explanation were added to Section 20, which made it even more explicit that in all pending cases, including trial, revision, appeal and any other criminal proceedings in respect of a juvenile in conflict with law, the determination of juvenility of such a juvenile would be in terms of clause (l) of Section 2 of the 2000 Act, and the provisions of the Act would apply as if the said provisions had been in force when the alleged offence was committed.
In the instant case, there is no controversy that the appellant was about sixteen years of age on the date of commission of the alleged offence and had not completed eighteen years of age when the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, came into force. In view of Sections 2(k), 2(l) and 7A read with Section 20 of the said Act, the provisions thereof would apply to the appellant’s case and on the date of the alleged incident it has to be held that he was a juvenile.
The appeal has, therefore, to be allowed on the ground that notwithstanding the definition of juvenile under the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, the appellant is covered by the definition of juvenile in Section 2(k) and the definition of juvenile in conflict with lawin Section 2(l) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, as amended.