SC:Offences not punishable with minimum 7yrs jail aren’t heinous u/ JJ Act

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 9th January 2020, in the matter of Shilpa Mittal v. State Of Nct Of Delhi & Anr. pronounced that an offence where the minimum sentence is less than 7 years, or there is no minimum sentence prescribed but the maximum sentence is more than 7 years cannot be treated to be an heinous offence within the meaning of Section 2(33) of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and shall be dealt with in the same manner as children who have committed ‘serious offences’ till the Parliament takes the call on the matter.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

“Whether an offence prescribing a maximum sentence of more than 7 years imprisonment but not providing any minimum sentence, or providing a minimum sentence of less than 7 years, can be considered to be a ‘heinous offence’ within the meaning of Section 2(33) of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015?”

In a given circumstance, this Court can even add or subtract words from a statute. However, this can be done only when the intention of the Legislature is clear. (Para 28)

It is not necessary that the intention of the Legislature is the one what the judge feels it should be. If the intention of the Legislature is clear then the Court can get over the inartistic or clumsy wording of the statute. However, when the wording of the statute is clear but the intention of the Legislature is unclear, the Court cannot add or subtract words from the statute to give it a meaning which the Court feels would fit into the scheme of things. (Para 28)

If the intention of the Legislature is absolutely clear from the objects and reasons of the Act then the Court can correct errors made by the person who drafted the legislation and may write down or omit/delete/add words to serve the purpose of the legislation and ensure that the legislation is given a meaning which was intended to by the Legislature. (Para 29)

From the date when the Act of 2015 came into force, all children who have committed offences falling in the 4th category (where the minimum sentence is less than 7 years, or there is no minimum sentence prescribed but the maximum sentence is more than 7 years.) shall be dealt with in the same manner as children who have committed ‘serious offences’ till the Parliament takes the call on the matter. (Para 35)

An offence which does not provide a minimum sentence of 7 years cannot be treated to be an heinous offence within the meaning of Section 2(33) of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. (Para 36)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_09-Jan-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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