898 petty offence cases against minors closed: Delhi govt tells HC

New Delhi, Oct 27 PTI 898 cases of alleged petty offences against minors, which were pending and remained inconclusive for over one year, have been closed before the Juvenile Justice Boards JJB here, the Delhi government told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday.


PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 27-10-2021 21:37 IST | Created: 27-10-2021 21:37 IST
898 petty offence cases against minors closed: Delhi govt tells HC
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New Delhi, Oct 27 (PTI) 898 cases of alleged petty offences against minors, which were pending and remained inconclusive for over one year, have been closed before the Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) here, the Delhi government told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday. A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani, which had earlier pulled up the Delhi government for not complying with its direction to pull-the-plug on such cases, emphasised that closure was not a “mere formality” and the rehabilitation and care of children in conflict with the law was at the core of the entire exercise. “The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that children receive rehabilitation… What we need to know is, is there a procedure for rehabilitation being followed?... This is not a mere formality. The idea is to not close but ensures that nobody in need of care and protection is overlooked,” the bench said. It added that a society can be best judged from the standpoint of how it takes care of its children. Delhi government counsel Nandita Rao informed the court that over 800 cases of alleged petty offences, which were pending for over one year, were closed across six JJBs, and as per the data at hand, there were only 34 instances where the enquiry was pending for more than six months but less than one year. Petty offences include those crimes for which the maximum punishment under the IPC or any other law for the time being in force is imprisonment up to three years.

The government lawyer told the court that the criticism of the state machinery was “sweeping and exaggerated”. She informed that the Delhi government has the power to grant compensation to such children following a recommendation by the JJB and there even existed probation officers and a “Juvenile Justice Fund”. The court was informed by one of the government officials that the authorities were not “disbursing the funds” and the same has been used only to open a centre and give vocational training in observation homes. “If there is a fund, there has to be a budget allocation. What is the current budget? ...This is Birbal's Kadai (pot). You can see it from a distance but you can't make anything in it!”, the court said. “We want to know the amount allocated to the JJ Fund in the last couple of years and how much is disbursed,” it added. The court also sought the Delhi government's stand on the allocation of the amount to the paralegal volunteer scheme and the timeframe within which more JJBs would be set up in eleven city districts. During the hearing, the Delhi government counsel further informed the court that upon an analysis of the number of minors that were produced before several JJBs, around 1000 minors could not be traced and assured that “once the process comes into force, no child would go missing”. The lawyer sought time from the court to place on record an analysis that would be undertaken by the concerned authorities on the “leakages” in the system. “Children don't have time. We don't know where they are. You are not inspiring any confidence. You are hoping that there have gone back with their parents. What if they haven't?” the court questioned. The court also emphasised that as a first step in the system, in case there is a juvenile in conflict with the law, the police has to ensure his/her production before the concerned juvenile justice board (JJB) within 24 hours. “SoPs (standard operating procedures) are not helping. They are just SoPs. We are going back and forth unless we simplify it in terms of the Juvenile Justice Act. If you have a juvenile, you produce before JJ Board… The entire force of the enactment is, if there is a child, you have to produce in 24 hours. He (police official) has to ensure that the child appears,” the court said. “You can't stage Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark! That's where we have to begin,” it said. Senior advocate H S Phoolka is the amicus curiae in the present case which arises from a criminal reference concerning the circumstances when a child in conflict with the law also needs care and protection. On September 29, the court had ordered that all cases, where inquiries against minors allegedly in petty offences before JJBs, are pending and remain inconclusive for over one year stand “terminated with immediate effect”.

It had noted that as per Section 14 of the Juvenile Justice Act, the inquiry in such cases shall conclude in four months from the date of the first production before the board unless the period is extended for a maximum of two months.

The case would be heard next on December 14.PTI ADS RKS RKS

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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