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Key Takeaways

  • Under Section 18(A) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 a court may pass an order to conduct the trial of a child as an adult. This decision is to be taken after conducting a preliminary assessment under section 15 of the Act.
  • The question that arises is whether ‘may’ in section 15 will be read as ‘shall’. The High Court states in this case ‘may’ is read as ‘shall’.
  • Despite this, the examination of the Juvenile Justice Board was satisfactory. The application was rejected.

Facts

  • In the case of Ojef Khan V. State of M.P.the victim was a minor subjected to sexual intercourse by the juvenile applicant and his friend. The applicant also committed theft of money from the victim’s house, and subsequently blackmailed the victim, and violated her again.
  • The Juvenile Justice Board concluded that the case be tried before the Children Court. An order was passed, which was challenged before the Appellate Court, where the appeal was rejected.
  • Under Section 18(A) of the Juvenile Justice Act, a court may pass an order to conduct the trial of a child as an adult. This decision is to be taken after conducting a preliminary assessment under section 15 of the act.

Arguments by the parties

  • The applicant submitted that the Board while making the preliminary assessment conducted an inadequate test to infer the mental capacity of the applicant. This assessment should have included a psychologist or a psychosocial worker.
  • The State submitted that section 15 uses the word ‘may’, implying that a psychologist is not mandatory.
  • The question that arises is whether ‘may’ in section 15 will be read as ‘shall’.

Courts observation

  • The court relied on the treatise on Principles of Statutory Interpretation authored Justice G. P. Singh, to conclude that the word ‘may’ has to be understood as ‘shall’
  • Further it looked at the examination conducted by the court and found that a Probation Officer fits the definition of “other experts” provided under Section 15(1) of the Juvenile Justice Act. Since these officers work with children on a daily basis, their judgement is accepted by the court.
  • It was also observed that the Probation Officer’s report was not blindly relied upon and the court conducted further examination of the applicant before trying him as an adult. The board has observed that the manner of the applicant shows he was capable of understanding the gravity of the offence.
  • Therefore, after considering these facts the court concluded that no error of fact or law is found, and the application was rejected.

Questions

  • Do you agree with the decision of the Madhya Pradesh High Court?
  • What is section 18(a) of the Juvenile Justice Act?
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