NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has terminated an inquiry by the Juvenile Justice Board against a minor accused in a criminal case for delay in completion of the proceedings within the stipulated period of six months.
The juvenile was apprehended in November 2014 in a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder but the board's inquiry continued for nearly five years, the court noted.
"When the statute (Juvenile Justice Act) provides for a maximum period of six months to conclude an inquiry, to keep an inquiry pending for five years frustrates the very object of the Statute.
No ground, even delay caused by the accused, can justify continuance of an inquiry for such a long period," Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said.
The court was hearing a plea filed on behalf of the juvenile challenging the order of a trial court dismissing his prayer to terminate the inquiry against him.
The trial court had concluded that several adjournments were sought by the juvenile's counsel and he wanted to take benefit of the welfare provision even though he delayed the progress of the trial and several public witnesses could not be examined because of adjournments sought by him.
The high court was of the view however that if the accused attempts to delay the proceedings, the board has sufficient powers to expedite the process and ensure that such an attempt of the accused is not successful.
"I am of the view that it is a fit case where the inquiry should be terminated on the ground that the same has remained inconclusive for five years.
Accordingly, while holding that the Rule is directory and not mandatory, the inquiry against the petitioner (juvenile) is terminated, if not already concluded," Justice Sachdeva said.
The high court said perusal of the record showed that after the dismissal of juvenile's application by the board in August 2016, he has not been the sole cause of delay.
He had challenged the board's order before the appellate court, that is, the trial court which had also dismissed his plea for termination of inquiry.
According to the FIR, a fight took place in which the juvenile along with other co-accused allegedly assaulted the complainant and her family with iron rods.