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Rights of children are completely non-negotiable even if they are implicated in a heinous crime, Delhi High Court has said while expressing pain over the way a sessions court dealt with a murder case in which a juvenile was "incarcerated" for over nine years. The high court suggested that there was a need to train trial court judges regarding the law relating to juveniles, saying the sessions court had dealt with the matter while being "completely oblivious" of the valuable rights of a minor under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act. Acquitting the minor boy forthwith, a bench of Justices Gita Mittal and P S Teji directed the high court registry to send the copy of its order to Director (Academics) of Delhi Judicial Academy for designing refresher course on juvenile justice and compiling the material for it. "This design shall be sent to every District Judge, who, if possible, would organise and implement the training at the district court complexes for expediency and to save the time of judges. The timing of implementation of the training may be staggered to ensure that the programme is undertaken urgently and by every member of the judicial service," it said. The bench noted that the minor was arrested on January 13, 2007, and incarcerated ever since. He underwent over nine years of imprisonment which was much more than the maximum sentence permissible under the provisions of the JJ Act. This case also reflected the callousness of the police on the importance of the issue relating to ascertaining the age of the boy, who was convicted in August 2014 in the murder case and awarded life term, the bench said. The boy had claimed to be a minor at the time of commission of the crime. "... Rights of the child are completely non-negotiable. Even, if he/she may stand implicated for commission of a heinous crime.
The SHO of the police station concerned, who having conducted the age inquiry, would have known about it. Yet, he also made no effort to inform the trial court about the same," the bench noted.
"In any case, the appellant (minor) could not have been kept in the jail meant for adult prisoners but was required to be kept in the observation home, that too only for the maximum period of three years. As such, he cannot be detained in custody any longer," the bench said and directed that he be released forthwith from custody if he was not wanted in any other case. "Before parting with the case, we are pained to note that the matter has proceeded as if in routine. A sessions court has dealt with the case, completely oblivious of the valuable rights of a juvenile under the JJ Act, ignorant of judicial precedents on the subject and the orders of the single judge of this court in this very case. This situation suggests a re-visit to training in law relating to juveniles, procedural and substantive," the court said. The order came on the application of the boy, who had approached the court seeking to declare him a juvenile. He had challenged his conviction before the high court and his appeal was dismissed in November 2015.