Millennium Post

Can the term ‘juvenile’ be reinterpreted?

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy's plea for a fresh interpretation of the term 'juvenile'. The court would hear the matter on 31 July. Swamy, in his plea, also cited the alleged role of the juvenile in the 16 December gangrape case.

Swamy told the court that his petition asking to consider the mental and intellectual maturity instead of age limit of 18 years for such offenders while fixing their culpability would become infructuous if the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) goes ahead with pronouncement of verdict already scheduled for July 25. Taking note of his submission, a bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked him to inform the JJB about his pending petition in the apex court.

The JJB has fixed 25 July for its verdict involving the juvenile, who was one of the six accused in the gangrape of the 23-year-old paramedic student.

Swamy has said in his petition that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (JJA) provides for a straitjacket interpretation of the term 'juvenile' that a person below the age of 18 years is a minor and it was in violation of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and Beijing Rules on the issue. He said that the UNCRC and Beijing Rules say the presumption of the age of criminal responsibility be fixed while bearing in mind the mental and intellectual maturity of offender.

A provision of the JJA says juvenile or child means a person who has not completed eighteenth year of age. 'I submit that since it was the intention of Parliament, as stated in the Preamble, to enact JJA in consonance with the ratified UNCRC and Beijing Rules, it is prayed that this Court, after hearing the UOI if necessary, may read the words 'mental and intellectual maturity' into the wording of Section 2(k) on the age of innocence,' he said.

He said that the present interpretation of term 'juvenile' has the effect of nullifying the fundamental right to life of the victim.
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