Court junks minor’s plea against being tried as adults in murder case

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A SPECIAL court dismissed an appeal filed by two children in conflict with law against the order of the Juvenile Justice Board which had directed for them to be tried as adults for the alleged murder of a 59-year-old musician in 2019.

In January, the Board had transferred their cases to a children’s court as per the amended Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015. As per the Act, if a heinous offence is suspected to have been committed by children in the 15-18 age group in conflict with the law, their cases can be transferred to a children’s court and they can be punished to a jail term. If continued to be tried as minors, they face a maximum of a three-year reformatory term in a special home.

In the appeal filed on behalf of the minors, it was submitted that the Board was to conduct a preliminary assessment into whether they had the physical and mental capacity to commit the offence, their ability to understand the consequences and the circumstances in which the offence was allegedly committed. It was submitted that the mental health assessment was conducted only to see if they have any mental disorders.

It was also submitted that the minor girl, who was 17 at the time of the alleged incident, was being sexually harassed by the deceased. It was also submitted that the 16-year-old boy too came to know about it but they were scared of approaching the police since the man was a member of a political party. The court however relied on the charge sheet, including the prosecution witnesses, and observed that the girl continued to visit the 59-year-old’s home. The court also said that the minors were found in possession of the ATM cards, home keys, bank documents of the deceased. “All these facts show that the offence of murder was committed with an intention of grabbing the property of the deceased,” the court said, adding that these show that both had the mental capacity to judge the nature and consequences of their act. The 59-year-old’s body parts where found in a suitcase at the Mahim seashore, the police said.

The court also said that while the Social Investigation Report spoke about their behaviour in the observation home they were lodged in since 2019, it does not negate the facts brought out in the charge sheet. The minors’ appeal also relied on a judgment of the Bombay High Court in another case where the court had said that the Act is reformative and not retributive.

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