The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has recommended the immediate termination of all the proceedings involving petty offences against more than 1,000 juveniles that have completed the due time of six months or are pending for over a year.
According to the Commission, as of December 31, around 367 cases were pending between 6-12 months, and 953 cases were pending for over a year in six Juvenile Justice Boards in Delhi.
Section 14 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, states that cases involving petty crimes must be concluded maximum within six months of the minor's first appearance before the court. The period can be extended by a maximum of two months after the reasons for the extension is recorded.
The child rights body took a strong view of the effect of delays in cases involving children, from compromising their mental health and personal freedom to denial from familial love.
"The stigma faced by the children and the tag of the 'criminal' when cases are being pursued in Juvenile Justice Boards not only adversely affects the mental health of the children, but denies them their familial love if kept in an institution, and personal freedom duly enshrined in the Constitution. It has a significant adversarial impact on the children. Pursuing the proceedings beyond the legally permissible time limit, therefore, would be an encroachment of the statutory right as well as the personal liberty of these children," the recommendation document reads.
The principal magistrate of one of the JJBs said that the board was in the process of terminating the cases, but the board did not have proper access to the records due to the COVID lockdown.
The board will now be accessing the records and identify the cases into three categories - petty, serious, and heinous. It will also note whether the minor has been produced before them and whether the cases have surpassed the six-month due time.
"We are working to identify appropriate cases, and once we do, we will terminate them immediately. We have already done so in more than 100 cases," The Indian Express quoted the principal magistrate as saying.
The Commission also referred to the experts' legal opinions while forming the recommendations, including Justice Madan Lokur, Anant Asthana, Bharti Ali and Nimisha Srivastava.
The recommendations also found that neither the Act itself nor the judiciary has granted any extension in inquiries into petty offences under the Act due to the lockdown or a disaster.