Child Justice Prevails: Supreme Court Upholds Rights Under JJ Act

In a resounding verdict echoing across judicial corridors, the Supreme Court resolutely affirmed the inviolable rights enshrined within the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. A recent ruling asserted that the conviction of a juvenile accused, deemed a ‘child in conflict with the law’, cannot withstand legal scrutiny sans a crucial preliminary assessment. This assessment, imperative under the Act, delineates the physical and mental capacity of the juvenile, indispensable for discerning whether trial as an adult or a juvenile is warranted.

In a pivotal reversal of High Court findings, a bench led by Justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta underscored the paramountcy of this preliminary evaluation. They emphasized that the determination of trying a juvenile as an adult or a juvenile, as per Section 19 of the JJ Act, hinges solely upon the comprehensive assessment executed by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB). This evaluation meticulously probes whether a juvenile, aged sixteen or above, possesses the cognitive and physical faculties requisite for the alleged offense.

The court, in its authoritative judgment, rebuked the glaring omission of due process in the case at hand. It pointedly remarked on the blatant disregard for Sections 15 and 19 of the JJ Act. Crucially, neither was the charge sheet against the accused filed before the Board, nor was any preliminary assessment conductedโ€”a stark departure from statutory mandate.

In this instance, the accused, a juvenile at the time of the offense, faced trial without adherence to the statutory prerequisites. Despite convictions at lower courts, the apex court intervened, upholding the appellant’s plea.

Counsel for the appellant vehemently contended the egregious violation of Sections 15 and 19, highlighting the inescapable necessity of a preliminary assessment. The Supreme Court, echoing the appellant’s stance, invalidated the entirety of proceedings, citing gross contravention of JJ Act mandates.

The court elucidated that trial of a juvenile, as per Section 19, falls squarely within the domain of children’s courts, predicated upon the preliminary assessment report by the JJB. The crux of the matter lies in the imperative nature of this evaluation, as reiterated in the landmark judgment of Ajeet Gurjar v. State of Madhya Pradesh.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court, in a definitive pronouncement, annulled the impugned judgment and ordered the immediate release of the appellant. Justice, as dictated by the statutes and fortified by judicial wisdom, prevailed.

In this legal saga, the resounding message remains unequivocal: the edifice of justice stands firm when built upon the pillars of due process and statutory adherence.

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