New Delhi, Sep 23: Seeking a confession about an alleged crime committed by a juvenile is unconstitutional as a “presumption is raised at the pre-trial stage itself that the child has committed the offence, the Delhi High Court has said. Further, it said securing the confession of the juvenile in conflict with the law is beyond the scope of a report of the preliminary assessment to be prepared under the Juvenile Justice Act.
A bench of Justices Mukta Gupta and Anish Dayal, which perused a preliminary assessment report prepared by a psychologist on the subject, said that under clause 3 of the report it can be clearly noted that a confession is sought to be extracted from a child as to how the offence was committed and the reasons thereof. This manner of seeking a confession from the child is unconstitutional and beyond the scope of a report of the preliminary assessment to be prepared under Section 15 of the JJ Act, the bench said in its September 19 order.
Section 15 of the JJ Act provides that in case a child, between 16 to 18 years of age, has committed a heinous offence, the Juvenile Justice Board may conduct a preliminary assessment to assess the maturity level of the child, his mental and his physical capacity to conduct such an act. The bench also noted that under the Act, the probation officer is required to fill out a form that relates to the preparation of the Social Investigation Report (SIR) for children in conflict with the law.
It said the two questions regarding the alleged role of the child and reason for committing the offence were incorrect as a presumption is raised at the pre-trial stage itself that the child has committed the offence. Most often, this SIR filled by the probation officer is also considered pertinent at the time of preparing the preliminary assessment report under Section 15 of the Act, it said.
The high court was hearing a criminal reference relating to the issuance of guidelines to be followed by Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) in conducting preliminary assessments before sending a minor for trial as an adult. It had earlier allowed a plea by NGO HAQ Centre for Child Rights to intervene in the matter.
Initially, all children below the age of 18 years were to be treated as a juvenile and tried by the JJB. However, after an amendment was brought in the 2015 JJ Act, a separate category for juveniles between the age of 16 to 18 years involved in heinous crimes, was formed. A preliminary enquiry needs to be carried out to ascertain if they are to be tried as a child or as an adult.