The Supreme Court on Thursday granted interim bail to 13 convicted prisoners, keeping in view the fact that they were declared as juveniles by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) at the time of the commission of the offence, had already served 14 years jail sentence. The prisoners who are currently lodged in Agra Central Jail in Uttar Pradesh were given bail on personal bond.
A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Indira Banerjee and also comprising Justice V Ramasubramanian granted interim bail on Thursday to 13 convicted prisoners.
Lawyer Rishi Malhotra, appearing for the jailed prisoners told the bench that previously, the Supreme Court had already issued a notice in the petition, and it is a case of illegal detention.
Senior lawyer Garima Prashad, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, told the court that the acts have to be verified. “We have seen the case. But the interim bail may be granted to them.”
The 13 convicts currently lodged in Agra Central Jail had in June this year, moved the supreme court seeking immediate direction for their release.
The petition filed by lawyer Rishi Malhotra before the Supreme Court sought immediate appropriate directions and orders in this regard.
Mr Malhotra, in his petition, stated that the 13 convicts, declared as juveniles by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) at the time of the commission of the offence, have been lodged in “hardcore jails with hardcore criminals.”
The petitioners by virtue of the instant writ petitions sought to highlight a very unfortunate and sorry state of affairs in the State of Uttar Pradesh, despite clear and unchallenged rulings from the JJB, that they were juveniles with clear findings that they were all below the age limit of 18 years, yet no steps have been taken to release them forthwith, Malhotra said, in his petition.
“The miseries are further compounded by the fact that these petitioners who are languishing in Agra Central Jail have already undergone judicial incarceration for periods ranging from 14 years to 22 years. It would be pertinent to mention here that as per Section15 read with Section 16 of Juvenile Justices (JJ) Act, 2000, the maximum period of incarceration has been mentioned as 3 years and that too in Juvenile homes,” Mr Malhotra said in his petition and sought immediate direction from the top court for their release.
However, here is the case where the petitioner languishes in hardcore jails amongst hardcore criminals thereby completely negating the purpose and objects of the JJ Act, the petition further said.
Thus, all these petitioners having the verdicts declaring them as juveniles have actually undergone illegal detentions as on date and thereby prayed to the top constitutional court to pass necessary orders of releasing them forthwith within the spirit of Article 21 of the Constitution, Malhotra said, in his petition.
He also said that the JJB disposed of the cases of the 13 petitioners regarding the issue of their juvenility.
The JJB, through its order from time to time ranging from February 2017 to March 2021, categorically held that all these petitioners were below 18 years of age on the date of the alleged incident and were thus, declared juvenile by it, the petition claimed.
“It is unfortunate that despite a categorical order declaring these petitioners as Juvenile, the petitioners are languishing in Central Jail, Agra having undergone custody ranging from 14 years to 22 years,” Malhotra said, in his petition filed before the Supreme Court.
Though in the majority of the cases their statutory criminal appeal are pending before the High Court against their conviction under various IPC (Indian Penal Code) offences, but “the necessity and the need of the hour is to immediate direct 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, visualise, 3 years,” Malhotra said in his petition.