The Supreme Court on Thursday granted interim bail to 13 convicts, who were declared juveniles, yet they continued to languish among hardcore criminals in Agra Jail for periods ranging from 14 to 22 years. It was submitted that the prisoners had been denied release despite establishing that they were juveniles at the time of commission of offence.
A bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and V. Ramasubramanian granted interim bail to the accused on personal bond. “It is not in dispute that 13 petitioners have been held juveniles by Juvenile Justice Board. Let interim bail be granted by presenting personal bonds”, said the top court.
Advocate Rishi Malhotra, representing the convicts, said it was a case of illegal detention and previously, the top court had issued notice in the matter.
Senior advocate Garima Prasad, representing Uttar Pradesh government, submitted, “We have no objection with the bail, but we need to conduct verification”.
On July 1, the top court had sought response from the Uttar Pradesh government on a plea highlighting the sorry state of affairs in the state, where 13 convicts continue to languish in Agra jail despite being declared juvenile at the time of commission of offence.
Malhotra, representing the convicts, had submitted that despite unchallenged rulings from the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), which say they were below the age limit of 18 years, no steps have been taken so for their immediate release.
The plea sought immediate release of the convicts, who have been incarcerated for the period ranging from 14 to 22 years. In majority of cases their statutory criminal appeal is pending before the High Court against their conviction under various IPC offences.
The plea contended that the JJB, through its orders between February 2017 and March 2021, categorically held that all these petitioners were below 18 years of age on the date of the alleged incident. The plea added that they were declared juvenile by the concerned court.
The plea contended that according to Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) (Amendment) Act, 2006, the plea of juvenility can be raised at any stage of the trial and also after final disposal of the case.
Citing this law, the plea argued that petitioners continue to languish in jails amongst hardcore criminals, which defeats the purpose and objects of JJ Act.
The plea argued that “the necessity and the need of the hour is immediate release of these petitioners in view of the fact that not only they are declared juvenile, but they have already undergone a maximum period of detention provided under the JJ Act, 2000, i e, three years”.
Citing Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution, the petitioners urged the top court to pass necessary orders for their release.