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A Supreme Court bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose on Thursday held that offences which carried the maximum of more than seven years imprisonment, but with no minimum sentence of fewer than seven years should be treated as ‘serious’ and not as ‘heinous’ offences.
In the instant case, juvenile ‘X’ was accused of committing an offence punishable under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code, which is punishable with a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life up to ten years and fine in the first part, and imprisonment up to ten years or fine, or both in the second part. No minimum sentence is prescribed under this provision.
The first part of Section 304 deals with punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
The second part of Section 304 seeks to impose imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both, if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause it, or to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
Section 2(33) defines “heinous offences” as those for which the minimum punishment under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force is imprisonment for seven years or more. Section 2(35) defines “juvenile” as a child below the age of 18 years.
Section 2(45) defines “petty offences” as those for which maximum punishment under the IPC or any other law in force is imprisonment up to three years. Section 2(54) defines “serious offences” as those for which punishment under the IPC, or any other law in force, is imprisonment between three to seven years.Section 15 of the 2015 Act provides that if the child offender has committed a heinous offence, the Juvenile Justice Board shall conduct a preliminary assessment with regard to the mental and physical capacity of the child to commit such offence, the ability of the child to understand the consequence of the offence and the circumstances in which it was allegedly committed.
Section 19 of the Act empowers the Children’s Court to reassess the preliminary assessment of the Board. Under sub-section (2) of Section 19, a child must be kept in a place of safety and cannot be sent to jail till the child attains the age of 21 years, even if such a child has to be tried as an adult.
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