Maharashtra: Two booked for murder to be tried as minors in conflict with law, says court

Two minors, a boy and a girl, booked for the murder of a 59-year-old musician in 2019 will be tried as children in conflict with law (CCL) and not adults, after a children’s court observed on Tuesday that they are showing keen interest in education and focussing on their career.

The court said that it considered the aim and objective of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) (JJ) Act, 2015, and concluded that they should be tried as children in conflict with law.

If tried as minors, they face a maximum of three years in a special home if they are found to have committed the offence. As adults, they would have faced a jail term.

The 59-year-old Vakola resident was allegedly murdered and his chopped body parts, in three suitcases, were dumped in the city. The two minors were booked for murder. The girl had said that she was sexually abused by the deceased. A separate case has been filed against an adult accomplice, which is being heard in the sessions court.

Last January, the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) in Mumbai had transferred their cases to a children’s court as per the amended JJ Act, directing that they be tried as adults. An appeal filed by them against the order was rejected by the same children’s court in December.

The two minors, through lawyers Manpreet Bhagal and Maharukh Adenwalla, had approached the children’s court with a separate application as per the JJ Act. The application was moved under Section 19, which has provisions for the children’s court to decide whether there is a need for the minors in conflict with law to be tried as adults or as minors.

“No doubt serious allegations of committing murder have been made against both. However, a report of the probation officer and NGO Prayas, with respect to the girl, and the report of probation officer as well as NGO Ashiyana Foundation, shows that both CCLs are showing keen interest in pursuing further education and are completely focused on their career. They are showing interest in acquiring various skills. From the said reports, any kind of undisciplined behavior of CCLs has not been noticed,” Special Judge Kalpana K Patil said.

On behalf of the girl, who was 17 at the time of the incident, it was submitted that she was sexually abused by the deceased and was therefore a child in need of care and protection. The court was also told that while lodged in an observation home before being granted bail, various behavioural changes were seen in the girl. She participated in vocational activities, is currently pursuing her Class X with the help of NGO Prayas and plans to pursue a course in nursing. On behalf of the boy, who was 16 at the time of the incident, the court was told that he has enrolled to complete his Class XII through open schooling and is receiving counselling from Aashiyana, which works with children at the home.

The lawyers also said that the JJ Act has a reformative approach with a focus on rehabilitation and social reintegration. They added that the reports from the NGOs and the home’s probation officers can be referred to see the progress of the minors.

The prosecution opposed their pleas stating that the offence they were booked for was murder.

The court said that it was considering the aim and object of the JJ Act, along with the reports of the NGOs and the probation officers, to conclude that there was no need to conduct the trial of the CCLs as adults. The JJ Act in 2015 had added provisions for children between 16-18 age group to be tried as adults if they have committed heinous offences.

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