Muzaffarpur shelter home case : Delhi court defers verdict till Jan 14

A Delhi court on Thursday deferred by a month the judgment in the case of alleged sexual and physical assault of several girls at a shelter home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur which was run by former Bihar People’s Party (BPP) MLA Brajesh Thakur.

Additional Sessions Judge Sudesh Kumar deferred the verdict till January 14 next year, as Judge Saurabh Kulshrestha, who had conducted the trial, was on leave on Thursday.

The court had earlier deferred the order by a month till December 12 as the accused could not be brought to court premises from jail due to lawyers’ strike in all six district courts in the national capital at the time.

On Thursday, it adjourned the judgement after all the 20 accused, including Thakur, were brought from Tihar jail, where there are currently lodged, and produced before it.

The court had on March 20, 2018, framed charges against the accused for offences of criminal conspiracy to commit rape and penetrative sexual assault against minors.

The matter had come to light after the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) submitted a report to the Bihar government on May 26, 2018, highlighting the alleged sexual abuse of minor girls in the shelter home.

The accused included eight females and 12 males.

The court had held in-camera trial for the offences of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, drugging of minors, criminal intimidation among other charges, said advocate Dheeraj Kumar Singh, appearing for some of the accused in the case.

Key accused Thakur and employees of his shelter home, as well as Bihar department of social welfare officials were charged with criminal conspiracy, neglect of duty and failure to report assault on the girls, the lawyer had said.

The charges also included offence of cruelty to child under their authority, punishable under the Juvenile Justice Act.

All the accused, who appeared before the court, had pleaded innocence and claimed trial.

The offences entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

The court had reserved order on September 30 after final arguments by the CBI counsel and 20 accused in the case in which former Bihar Social Welfare Minister and the then JD(U) leader Manju Verma also faced flak as allegations surfaced that Thakur had links with her husband.

She had resigned from her post on August 8, 2018.

The CBI had told a special court that there was enough evidence against all the accused in the case.

However, those accused have claimed that the CBI had not conducted a “fair investigation” into the case, which has been registered under the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and entails life imprisonment as the maximum punishment.

Additional Sessions Judge Kulshreshtha, during the in-camera trial, concluded the arguments in the case which had begun on February 25 this year.

The case was transferred on February 7 from a local court in Muzaffarpur in Bihar to a POCSO court at Saket district court complex in Delhi on the Supreme Court’s directions.

During the trial, counsel for the CBI told the court that the statements of minor girls, who were allegedly sexually assaulted, point to the fact that there was enough evidence against all the accused and they should be convicted.

On May 29 last year, the state government shifted the girls from the shelter home to other protection homes. In May 31, 2018, an FIR was lodged against the accused in the case.

The top court had on August 2 taken cognisance of the alleged sexual assaults of about 30 minor girls in Muzaffarpur’s shelter home and transferred the probe to the CBI on November 28.

Vacancies in bodies under JJ Act affecting implementation: SC

Vacancies in bodies under JJ Act affecting implementation: SC
Vacancies in bodies under JJ Act affecting implementation: SC

Different authorities constituted under the Juvenile Justice Act are facing vacancies which, in turn, is affecting the effective implementation of the Act, Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur said today.

“If authorities constituted under the (Juvenile Justice) Act, such as the juvenile justice boards, state commissions for protection of child rights, special juvenile police units, do not function properly — many of them have vacancies for months — there is no point in having a good law,” Justice Lokur said.

Justice Lokur, who also heads the Supreme Court Juvenile Justice Committee, was speaking at the 3rd Regional Roundtable Conference on ‘Effective Implementation of Juvenile Justice Act’ here.

“There are advisory bodies under the Act in every state and as far as I am aware, they are not functioning up to the mark. Unless we look into the functioning of the bodies, it is not going to take us very far,” he said.

Stressing on the need to focus on the implementation of Acts related to children, he said juvenile justice committees of High Courts have an important role to play in monitoring the implementation.

“What we need to really concentrate on is implementation of the Acts — the Juvenile Justice Act, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Acts with regard to the commissions on children.

“The functioning of these Acts is very important. Laws are good, but if we don’t implement them properly, they will only remain laws on paper,” said Justice Lokur.

“When the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was enacted, this was one of the main problems. The law was good but nothing was happening. That is what prompted the Chief Justice of India to write to the Chief Justices of High Courts to set up juvenile justice committees, so that at least the judiciary can play a role (in their implementation),” he added.

Justice Lokur also expressed concern over the rising number of cases pertaining to sexual abuse of children under the POCSO Act.

“This is a very very serious issues…there are so many cases of child sexual abuse. This is frightening. What is happening to our society that such a large number of child sexual abuse cases are being reported?” he asked.

Justice Lokur said visits by the members of juvenile justice committees to correction homes has led to a change in their condition, and asked the members to continue with the visits “to encourage the children and help them out by discussing their problems”.

“Over the last two-three years, there have been a lot of visits to the homes and this has led to a change. People have realised that improvement was necessary after learning what was going on at the ground level,” he said.

Justice Lokur also called for setting up of “child- friendly” courts where children can depose as witnesses or give statements in a “friendly environment”.

Such courts have been set up at the Hyderabad and Calcutta High Courts. The Allahabad High Court is also in the process of setting up one such court, he said.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 was enacted for children alleged and found to be in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.

The Act of 2015 has replaced the 2000 law on children.

The conference here was part of such events organised by the Supreme Court Juvenile Justice Committee across different centres for effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act.

( Source – PTI )

Government planning changes in juvenile justice act: Maneka Gandhi

juvenile justice actThe government is planning special provisions in the current Juvenile Justice Act to address heinous offences committed by children above the age of 16 years, Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi told parliament Friday.

The move was aimed to act as a deterrent for child offenders committing such crimes and will also protect the rights of the victim, she said in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.

The other revisions proposed in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 include bringing in more clarity in the role and procedures of statutory structures such as Child Welfare Committees and Juvenile Justice Boards and strengthening punitive measures for offences committed against children.

Some other provisions include new offences such as corporal punishment, ragging and using a child for vending, peddling, carrying, supplying or smuggling any intoxicating liquor, narcotic drug or psychotropic substance and streamlining and strengthening measures for adoption including providing statutory status to the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).

It also makes it mandatory for all child care institutions to register or pay a stringent penalty in case of non-compliance.

Maneka Gandhi said that the draft bill at this stage has been circulated for inter-ministerial consultation. After the approval of the cabinet, the bill is likely to be introduced in parliament.

NGO welcomes SC ruling on juvenile act

supreme courtAn NGO working for children’s rights Friday welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the existing Juvenile Justice Act.

The apex court Friday refused to interfere with the age of juveniles in cases where they were found guilty of heinous crimes.

It was held by the court that the provisions of the act were in compliance with the constitutional directives and international conventions.

“We are extremely relieved and happy that the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the stance of child rights advocates and has dismissed the petition challenging the existing Juvenile Justice Act,” said NGO Save the Children.

“The answer to juvenile delinquency is not in reducing the age of childhood but in investing more in preventing juvenile crime and the effective enforcement of the various provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act,” it said in a release.

The release said the government must commit more resources to child protection mechanisms and strengthening Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS).

Currently, the expenditure on child protection is an abysmal 0.04 percent of the union budget, despite large violence and abuse of children, it said.

(Source: IANS)

Delhi HC concerned over ‘misuse’ of kids after adoption

delhi-high-courtThe Delhi High Court Thursday expressed concern over the children given away by parents for adoption, saying there are apprehensions that they “may be misused in child trafficking”.

A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Siddhartha Mridul said “there must be some kind of control” on how to deal with the adoption process in the country.

The bench remarked that there were chances that people may sell their children because of poverty, which has to be controlled.

The court was hearing a plea whether an adoption in which the child is given directly by the biological parents of a child to another person for adoption, without the intervention of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), is valid in the eyes of the law.

CARA is an autonomous body under the ministry of women and child development and functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children.

It is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.

Appearing as amicus curiae, advocate Maninder Acharya told the court that in the interests of the children being adopted, a specialised adoption agency would need to intervene in the matter.

“Rehabilitative measures for children in need of care and protection through means of adoption applies not only to orphaned and abandoned children but also to surrendered children,” the lawyer said.

According to CARA, the term “surrendered children” would include “children given in adoption by their biological parents directly to adoptive parents”.

“It is not unknown that children are often adopted and taken away from their country of origin for the purposes of trafficking, gaming, clinical trials and other pernicious activities. Therefore, the checks and balances which have been provided in the 2011 guidelines perhaps are required to be adhered to even in cases of direct adoption,” the lawyer said.

The single court in January last year had referred the matter to the division bench, saying the issue needed examination by a larger bench, where two petitions were filed on direct inter-country adoption.

One petitioner was a woman doctor from the US who had adopted a child from a couple in Uttar Pradesh. She got the adoption deed registered but when she applied for the passport of the child, the passport authority refused to give a passport saying she has to obtain a “no objection certificate from CARA which refused to give her the NOC.

The second petitioner was a couple from the US who adopted a child from a single mother who remarried after the death of her first husband.

CARA also refused to give a NOC to the couple when they applied for the child’s passport.

The advocate said that in both cases, the adoptive parents took the route of direct adoption, which in a sense “excludes the checks and balances provided in the best interests of the child at the pre-adoption, adoption and post-adoption stages”.

The counsel told the court that the Indian government June 27, 2011 notified guidelines governing adoption of children in furtherance of provisions contained in the Juvenile Justice Act and the Hague Convention of 1993, to which India became a signatory in 2003.

The court posted the matter for further hearing to Jan 19.

The adoptive parents, however, said CARA has “no role” to play in the facts and circumstances of the case as the “children were given in adoption to their respective adoptive parents by their biological parents”.

The intercession of CARA was mandated only in cases of those children who are orphaned or abandoned by their biological parents, the adoptive parents said.

(Source: IANS)

Act against juvenile delinquents’ handlers: Court

The Delhi High Court has directed police to act against adult offenders who use children in thefts. The court while hearing a public interest petition Wednesday said police should follow the guidelines issued by the Juvenile Justice Board Jan 25, 2011 on the matter.

A division bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Manmohan said: “The writ petition is disposed off with a direction to police to ensure that guidelines issued by the Juvenile Justice Board … are adhered to.”

The court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Anant Asthana alleging that a large number of under-privileged juveniles were being forced by organised gangs to take to crime. The board, while taking note of an organised gang called “Thak thak” (knock knock) asked police to take action against the adult criminals for using children.

The petitioner alleged that organised gangs were using juveniles to commit crimes and “whenever minors are caught, they are dealt with under the provisions of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 but no action is taken against the main perpetrators”.

“The state and its instrumentalities should come forward with full might and determination to protect children who are being trapped into this circle of crime by adults due to their vulnerability, helplessness and tender age,” the petition said.

The court disposed off the petition while taking into note the status report filed by deputy commissioner of police saying the JJB order had been circulated to all the police stations in February 2011 as well as in October last year for strict compliance.

In its affidavit, the state government outlined the various steps it was taking as well as it proposed to take to strengthen the implementation of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

(Source: IANS)

Plea in SC seeks CBI probe against Asaram

The Supreme Court was moved Thursday seeking a court- monitored CBI probe into the allegation of rape of a minor by spiritual guru Asaram Bapu in Rajasthan.

The petition by Chennai-based lawyer Irudaya Nathan sought the effective enforcement of Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 and said the main reason for his moving the apex court was the alleged stigmatisation and character assassination of the juvenile victim by Asaram Bapu’s son.

Pointing to the derogatory manner in which Asaram Bapu’s son and others had sought to stigmatise the juvenile victim, the petitioner said there was “very low implementation of the (Juvenile Justice) Act and the object of the (Juvenile Justice) Act to prevent stigmatisation of child in the society” and the swift and sensitive investigation in the case could only be done by the “positive intervention” by the apex court in such matters.

The petition also sought scientific determination of the age of the minor victim.

A 16-year-old girl alleged last week that Asaram Bapu raped her during one of her stays at his Jodhpur ashram. Asaram Bapu has denied the charge.

(Source: IANS)

SC upholds law on reformist treatment to delinquent minors

The Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the Juvenile Justice Act providing for a special reformist approach towards a minor irrespective of the nature of crime committed by him or her, saying that the law aimed to save children in conflict with law from becoming hardened criminals.

“The essence of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, and the rules framed thereunder in 2007, is restorative and not retributive, providing for rehabilitation and re-integration of children in conflict with law into the mainstream of society,” said an apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S.S. Nijjar.

Chief Justice Kabir said: “There are, of course, exceptions where a child in the age group of 16-18 may have developed criminal propensities, which would make it virtually impossible for him/her to be re-integrated into mainstream society, but such examples are not of such proportions as to warrant any change in thinking…”

“…It is probably better to try and re-integrate children with criminal propensities into mainstream society, rather than to allow them to develop into hardened criminals, which does not augur well for the future,” the court said.

The age of 18 has been fixed on account of the understanding of experts in child psychology and behavioural patterns that till such an age the children in conflict with law could still be redeemed and restored to mainstream society, the court said.

The court said this while declining petitions seeking the loweing of the age in the act from 18 to 16 years for juveniles and demanding that those involved in heinous crimes should not be treated differently from other offenders.

The petitioners, including author Salil Bali, lawyers and other individuals, had sought that the punishment for heinous crimes committed by a minor should not be decided by the Juvenile Justice Board.

The petition was filed in the context of a minor who was among those who were arrested for the gangrape, brutal assault and torture of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in Delhi Dec 16 last year. She later died in a Singapore hospital Dec 29.

Addressing the general perception that a juvenile was free to go, even if he had committed a heinous crime, when he ceases to be a juvenile, the court referred to the amendment to the law saying “that even if a juvenile attains the age of 18 years within a period of one year he would still have to undergo a sentence of three years, which could spill beyond the period of one year when he attained majority”.

The court said that there was yet another consideration which appears to have weighed with the worldwide community, including India, to retain 18 as the upper limit to which persons could be treated as children that was to “provide for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent juveniles and for the adjudication of certain matters relating to and disposition of delinquent juveniles”.

(Source: IANS)

SC seeks Centre’s reply on plea to reinterpret term juvenile

It has been asked by the supreme court for centre’s response to a plea  which sought a fresh interpretation of the term juvenile saying instead of 18 years age limit, the “mental and intellectual maturity” of such offenders be considered while fixing their culpability.

“Issue notice. Meanwhile, give a copy (of petition) to the Union of India,” a bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said on Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy’s petition.

The bench also decided to tag the plea of Swamy with other petitions saying they “more or less” also deal with the similar issues.

During hearing, Swamy said the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (JAA) provides for a “straitjacket” interpretation of 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, according to him.

A provision of the JJ Act 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.

Swamy, in his plea, also cited the alleged role of a juvenile in the December 16 gang rape of a 23-year old girl in a moving bus here who later died at a Singapore hospital.

The present interpretation of term juvenile has the effect of “nullifying” the fundamental right to life of the victim, he said in the plea.

Swamy said India, which had ratified the the UNCRC, 1989 and adopted the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice Beijing Rules (1985), later enacted the JJ Act.

However, the presumption of age of criminal responsibility has been fixed on the 18 years age limit in contravention of the Beijing Rules which say that “the mental and intellectual maturity” of the offender be considered while fixing criminal culpability, he contended, adding that the term juvenile needed to be revisited.

He also told “…any current ongoing trial under the JJ Act the age of criminal responsibility must be decided after reading into Section 2(k) the words: ‘provided that the juvenile in conflict with law is mentally and intellectually not sufficiently mature to be treated as an adult for the nature of crime allegedly committed’.”

“The JJ Act was never intended to provide cover to hardened criminals who have nothing redeemable about their behaviour like the alleged instant crime of rape and murder to have been committed on the night of December 16, 2012, which partakes of such an experienced diabolical nature that it is not that of a child, nor can any person who has committed it, ever be accepted as a child.

“Such an offender must have known what he was doing, and hence emotionally and intellectually mature to stand trial as an adult under Sections 83 r/w 302 and others of the IPC,” Swamy said in his plea.

SC issues notice to J&K govt on Juvenile Act

A notice to J&K government has been issued by the Supreme court of India on a PIL seeking implementation of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act in the state.

A bench headed by Justice R M Lodha asked the government to respond within four weeks on the plea alleging that there is lack of implementation of the Act and many minors accused are being treated along with other habitual criminals.

The court passed the order on the PIL filed on behalf of 12-year-old Faizan alleging that despite being a minor he was not given protection under the Act.

He alleged in the petition that he was arrested at midnight of August 25 last year by police and was kept inside a police station which was meant for habitual criminals.

He pleaded the court all proceedings against him should be quashed as his arrest and detention amount to wrongful confinement. He also submitted that minor accused in the state are subjected to illegal detention because of non- implementation of the Act.

“He is a minor fully protected under the provisions of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. He is fully entitled to the protection of his basic rights as minor guaranteed under the Constitution,” said advocate Bhim Singh, appearing for the petitioner.