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Pune Porsche crash: Bombay HC raises concerns over juvenile’s mental health

BySahyaja MS
Jun 22, 2024 08:52 AM IST

According to the court, there is no concept under the Juvenile Justice Act that allows the remand of a child to an observation home

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Friday expressed concerns about the mental health and trauma faced by the 17-year-old juvenile allegedly responsible for the deaths of two techies in the Pune Porsche incident.

The WCD department has issued an eight-page notices to two JJB members for showing “too much” leniency in giving bail to the 17-year-old teenager

A division bench of Justice Bharati Dangre and Justice Manjusha Deshpande, while acknowledging the trauma experienced by the victims’ families, also noted the potential trauma faced by the juvenile involved in the accident.

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“Two people have lost their lives. There was trauma, but the child was also in trauma, give him time,” the court remarked and questioned the legality of the orders remanding the minor to an observation home, particularly since he had been granted bail on May 19.

“Where is the provision for observation home custody? We would like to know the source of power for your remand,” the court inquired.

According to the court, there is no concept under the Juvenile Justice Act that allows the remand of a child to an observation home once bail is granted.

The incident occurred on May 19 when the juvenile, allegedly driving a Porsche car at high speed while intoxicated, crashed into a bike, killing two software engineers, Aneesh Awadhiya and Ashwini Koshta, in Pune’s Kalyani Nagar.

The Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) granted the 17-year-old bail the same day, ordering that he be placed under the care and supervision of his parents and grandfather. He was also asked to write a 300-word essay on road safety. However, amidst public uproar, the bail order was amended, and the juvenile was sent to an observation home in Pune, where he has been detained since.

Pooja Jain, the juvenile’s paternal aunt, subsequently approached the court, alleging that the remand orders were illegal, sought his immediate release.

During Friday’s hearing, senior advocate Aabad Ponda, arguing for Jain, contended that the remand orders were not only illegal but also passed without jurisdiction. He argued that the state should have applied for the cancellation of bail with an appropriate appellate authority rather than seeking amendment of the bail order, which is not permissible under the Juvenile Justice Act.

“The bail is neither cancelled, nor altered, nor set aside by a superior court. It’s not a case of re-arrest either. How can the board resort to the amendment of the bail order under the Act, when he has not been sent to an observation home in the first place?” Ponda questioned.

“You cannot turn back the clock. Had bail been refused, Child in Conflict with Law (CCL) could have been sent to an observation home. But having been granted bail, how can he be sent back to an observation home?” Ponda added, emphasising that the juvenile is undisputedly 17 years and 8 months old.

Ponda further argued that a person released on bail under the Act can in no circumstance be sent to an observation home. Once out on bail with a fit person, the juvenile can only be sent with another fit person and not to an observation home.

He also pointed out the absurdity of the state’s amendment application, which stated that they did not intend to cancel the bail while the reality is that he has been detained in the observation home.

The court questioned why the police did not move an application for the cancellation of the bail. Public prosecutor Hiten Vengaonkar responded that the state never intended to cancel the bail, nor is the confinement a remand as defined under the Criminal Procedure Code. The confinement to the observation home was for the child’s safety, as there was no one fit to claim his custody. According to Vengaonkar, no one has since made an application to be released to their safe custody. He further mentioned that the initial order was “rightly or wrongly passed,” and that the blood samples of the juvenile were tampered with.

“Action has been taken against the errant officers and doctors. We have to send a strong message to society. Just writing a 300-word essay is not enough,” Vengaonkar asserted.

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In response, the court questioned why there was no attempt to declare the parents and grandfather unfit if the issue was merely a change in custody. The court also asked why the juvenile was not allowed to travel freely if the situation did not involve a cancellation of bail but merely a custody change.

“He is a person who has been granted bail, but now he has been confined to an observation home. Is this not confinement?” the court asked. After hearing both sides, the court reserved its orders, which will be pronounced on June 25.

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