Court/Judicial body: Supreme Court of India
Date: 5 May 2009 CRC
Provisions: No specific provisions cited
Other international provisions: UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice 1985 (Beijing Rules)
Domestic provisions: Constitution of India, Articles 15(3), 39(e) and (f), 45 and 47 Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, sections 2(k), 2(l), 4, 7A, 15, 18, 20, 43, and 49 Juvenile Justice Act 1986, section 2(h) Juvenile Justice Rules 2007, rules 12, and 98
Background: Hari Ram was charged with a number of criminal offences. There was dispute as to Mr Ram’s age at the time of the offence, which determined whether he would be tried as a juvenile or an adult. According to the Juvenile Justice Act (“1986 Act”), a juvenile is a boy under 16 or a girl under 18. According to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (“2000 Act”), a juvenile is a child under 18. The High Court considered testimony from Mr Ram’s father as well as medical reports, and concluded that at the time of the offence Mr Ram was over 16, thereby excluding him from the juvenile justice system. He appealed on the basis that by adopting such a technical approach to determining his age, the Court had defeated the purpose of the juvenile justice laws (namely, the rehabilitation of young people in conflict with the law). Furthermore, the 2000 Act had raised the age until which a male child in conflict with the law would be treated as a juvenile from 16 to 18 years.
Issue and resolution: Juvenile justice. Whether Mr Ram falls within the definition of ‘juvenile’ under the “1986 Act” (under 16) or the 2000 Act (under 18). The Court allowed his appeal and set aside the order of the High Court, finding that he was under 18 at the time of the offence and also when the 2000 Act came into force, therefore the provisions of the 2000 Act would apply in his case such that he was to be treated as a ‘juvenile’.
Court reasoning: Under amendments to the 2000 Act, for all cases that were pending on the date on which the 2000 Act came into force (1 April 2001), a person will be determined to be a ‘juvenile in conflict with the law’ if they are alleged to have committed an offence when they were under 18. Mr Ram, who was over 16 at the time of the offence but under 18 when the 2000 Act came into force, was therefore to be treated as a ‘juvenile’ and the 2000 Act applied to his case.
Excerpt citing CRC and other relevant human rights 13. As indicated in the very beginning of this judgment, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, was enacted to deal with offences allegedly committed by juveniles on a different footing from adults, with the object of rehabilitating them. The need to treat children differently from adults in relation to commission of offences had been under the consideration of the Central Government ever since India achieved independence. With such object in mind, Parliament enacted the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, in order to achieve the constitutional goals contemplated in Articles 15(3), 39(e) and (f), 45 and 47 of the Constitution imposing on the State a responsibility of ensuring that all the needs of children are met and that their basic human rights are fully protected. Subsequently, in keeping with certain international Conventions and in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, 1985, commonly known as the Beijing Rules, the Legislature enacted the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 to attain the following objects … to bring the juvenile law in conformity with the United Convention on the Rights of the Child […] The said Act ultimately came into force on 1st April, 2001.
CRIN comments: Although the Court does not specifically refer to the best interests of the child in considering the issues in this case as required by Article 3 of the CRC, its interpretation of the legislation to determine that Mr Ram fell within the juvenile justice system is consistent with the CRC.
Citation: Criminal Appeal No 907 of 2009
Link to full judgement: http://indiankanoon.org/doc/1589001/