Lodging juveniles in adult prisons amounts to deprivation of their personal liberty:

In a Judgement delivered on 12th September 2022, Supreme Court held that lodging the Juveniles in adult prison amounted to deprivation of their personal liberty. [Vinod Katara vs State of UP].

“There can be no cavil in saying that lodging juveniles in adult prisons amounts to deprivation of their personal liberty on multiple aspects. Once a child is caught in the web of the adult criminal justice system, it is difficult for the child to get out of it unscathed,” said the bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and J B Pardiwala said.

The bench further added that the concept of personal liberty has received a far more expansive interpretation and the notion accepted today is that liberty encompasses these rights and privileges which have long been recognised as being essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by a free man and not merely freedom from bodily restraint.

The Court also noted that the awareness about the rights of the child and correlated duties remain low among the functionaries of the juvenile justice system.

The bitter truth is that even the legal aid programmes are mired in systemic bottlenecks and often it is only at a considerably belated stage of the proceeding that the person becomes aware of the rights, including the right to be differently treated on the ground of juvenility” said the court.

In the instant case, a writ petition was filed under Article 32 of the Constitution by a convict accused of undergoing life imprisonment for the offense of murder seeking appropriate directions to the respondent State of Uttar Pradesh to verify the exact age of the convict on the date of the commission of the offense as it is the convict’s case that he was a juvenile aged about 15years of age at the time of the commission of the offense.

The Supreme Court had previously upheld his conviction in 2016. However, he had not raised the issue of juvenility at the time. The petitioner later underwent an age determination test, as suggested by the state medical board, which too did not confirm his juvenility.

Thereafter, the writ applicant obtained a document in the form of Family Register dated 02.03.2021 issued under the U.P. Panchayat Raj (Maintenance of Family Registers) Rules, 1970 which showed birth of the writ applicant as 1968 indicating that he was about 14 years of age in 1982.

Holding that the family register cannot be accepted as equivalent to a matriculation certificate to prove the age of the accused, the court directed the session judge to examine its genuineness and authenticity since the ossification test may not be absolutely helpful in determining the exact age.

The two-judge bench, on considering the case at length, directed that the petitioner be subjected to an ossification test or any other latest medical age determination test.

Further, it was directed that such test be carried out by a team of three doctors, one of whom is the head of the Radiology Department.

The Court also directed Sessions Court, Agra to examine the claim of the petitioner’s juvenility within one month.

Source: Bar & Bench 


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