The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear on July 31 the plea of Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy for a fresh interpretation of the term ‘juvenile’ which he raised in the wake of the December 16 gang-rape incident here.
Swamy told the apex 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.
Swamy, in his plea, also cited the alleged role of the juvenile in the December 16 gang-rape case. “Inform the Board that we are seized of the matter,” the bench said. The JJB has fixed July 25 for its verdict involving the juvenile, who was one of the six accused in the gangrape of the 23-year-old paramedic student.
In his petition, Swamy has said 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.
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, he said.
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.
The present interpretation of term ‘juvenile’ has the effect of “nullifying” the fundamental right to life of the victim, he contended.