Human Rights Supreme Court of India

The Shabnam guidelines and why the convict’s lawyer should be given notice of death warrant proceedings

DeathPenaltyProcedure_LubhyatiRangarajan_NishantGokhaleWhen Yakub Memon was executed recently, there was some confusion about “death warrant” or “black warrant” proceedings. They were also controversial in previous cases such as that of Mohammed Afzal Guru where the spectre of a secret execution haunted the government and that of Surinder Koli where three warrants, containing a range of dates within a week, were under challenge.

Upon a conviction at the end of a criminal proceeding, the sentencing court or the trial court has to issue a conviction warrant to the relevant jail. This warrant specifies the period of imprisonment to which the convict has been sentenced.

In cases where the death sentence is awarded, it is formally called a “warrant for execution of a sentence of death”. Form No. 42 in the Second Schedule of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 contains the form of the “death warrant” or “black warrant”. It is addressed to the superintendent of the relevant prison who is supposed to return the warrant to the court after certifying that the death sentence has been carried out.

When can a death warrant be issued?

The court which imposed the sentence of death at the first instance (that is, the trial court) has the power to issue the death warrant under the CrPC. Sections 413 and 414 of the CrPC state that upon the high court confirming a death sentence, the sessions court shall cause that order to be carried into effect by issuing a warrant. In practice however, since an appeal lies to the Supreme Court against a death sentence, a sessions court would normally refrain from issuing a death warrant.

Even if the Supreme Court confirms the death sentence, there are several other remedies available to a prisoner to challenge the death sentence such as review and curative petitions, and mercy petitions under Articles 161 and 72.

And today, if a sessions court issues a death warrant before the end of the judicial and administrative process, it would amount to a serious violation of the law as laid down by the Supreme Court in Shabnam v. Union of India (2015) which affirmed the guidelines laid down by the Allahabad High Court in PUDR v. Union of India (in which the death sentence meted out to Surinder Koli was commuted to life imprisonment).

The guidelines in Shabnam arose out of a case in which death warrants were issued against two prisoners currently on death row – Shabnam and Saleem. The Supreme Court had confirmed their death sentences on May 15, 2015. A mere six days later, a sessions court in Uttar Pradesh issued death warrants against them stating that the execution should be held “as soon as possible”. No date, time, or place was specified on the warrants. This omission was already in violation of PUDR, a judgment that this Sessions Court was bound by. Further, Shabnam and Saleem were yet to exhaust several other remedies available to them.

In Shabnam, the Supreme Court held that the principles of natural justice have to be read into death warrant proceedings. A convict has to be given prior notice of the death warrant proceeding. The warrant has to specify the exact date and time of execution and not a range of dates. There should be a reasonable period of time between the date of the order on the warrant and the date set for execution to enable the convicts to meet their families and pursue legal remedies. Copies of the execution warrant should be made available to the convicts and they should be given legal aid at these proceedings if they do not already have a lawyer. These guidelines now need to be mandatorily followed in all cases where death warrants are issued.

When a death warrant was issued against Yakub Memon on April 30, the Shabnam guidelines were not yet in force. However, once Shabnam was decided, the Maharashtra government ought to have recalled the death warrant and initiated fresh proceedings to ensure that the rule laid down in Shabnam was satisfied. Most importantly, Yakub (lodged in a jail in Nagpur) and his lawyer should have been present at the proceedings that were held before a Mumbai court.

The guideline that a death warrant cannot be issued unless all available remedies are exhausted also needs to be seen in light of the contemporary jurisprudence on the death penalty. So after Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India (2013), a convict’s challenge to the rejection of his mercy petition is one of the available remedies.

Why are death warrants and their proceedings significant?

Shabnam has now held that holding a death warrant proceeding in open court with prior notice is vital to ensure that there is no secrecy or arbitrariness around executions. It enables the lawyer and the prisoner to ensure that the sentencing court is aware of pending proceedings challenging the conviction and sentence, if any.

For instance, the constitutional bench decision in Md. Arif@ Ashfaqv. The Registrar, Supreme Court of India allowed for an open court hearing of a review petition in all death sentence cases. In the Shabnam case, the sessions judge was unaware that neither Shabnam nor Saleem had had the opportunity to exercise their right to pursue this particular legal remedy, and instead, issued death warrants in haste. Such a situation could have been avoided if their lawyers had been informed of these proceedings.

Similarly, Shatrughan Chauhan now gives prisoners on death row the right to challenge the rejection of their mercy petitions by governors or the President through the writ jurisdiction under Articles 226 and 32. The Court also prescribed a minimum 14-day period between the receipt of the communication of the mercy petition being rejected, and the scheduled date of execution for two main reasons: (a) to allow the convict to make his peace with God and settle his earthly affairs and (b) to meet his family and avail of judicial remedies.

A court vested with the power to issue a death warrant must examine the case before it through a judicial lens and not view it as a mere formality and it may, if it finds that a prisoner has not yet exercised these judicial and administrative remedies available to them, postpone the setting of a date of execution. This purpose may not be served merely by having a lawyer who would not necessarily know if the convict has availed of his legal remedies. Considering that the majority of Indian death row convicts are illiterate or have had minimal or no access to education, they may not be in a position to inform the lawyer appointed for them, of proceedings initiated on their behalf. The convict’s lawyer therefore, should be given notice of the death warrant proceedings.

(Nishant Gokhale and Lubhyathi Rangarajan are Associates at the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic, National Law University, Delhi. The clinic represented Shabnam and Saleem before the Supreme Court in Shabnam v. Union of India and was an intervenor in Yakub Memon’s case.)

Human Rights Supreme Court of India

Has the Union made contradictory arguments on the right to privacy in the Aadhar and criminal defamation cases?

NoticeAndStayAdityaVerma_SupremeCourtcolumnTwo cases that the Supreme Court has been hearing during the last few weeks do not have anything to do with each other at first glance – the legality of the Aadhaar card scheme (“the Aadhaar case” – including Writ Petition (C) No 494 of 2012) and the constitutionality of the law of criminal defamation (the “criminal defamation case” – including Writ Petition (Crl) No 184 of 2014). Both are complex cases but my focus is on the contradiction about the right to privacy arising from the arguments made on behalf of the Union in both these cases.

The Aadhaar case

In the Aadhaar case, the Union has argued that the right to privacy in India is not a fundamental right. On August 11, 2015, a three-judge bench has directed the registry to place the Aadhaar case before the Chief Justice of India so that a larger bench (of at least five judges) can hear it. The order of the three-judge bench records the submission on behalf of the Union as follows:


…in view of the judgments of this Court in M.P. Sharma & Others v. Satish Chandra & Others, AIR 1954 SC 300 and Kharak Singh v. State of U.P. & Others, AIR 1963 SC 1295, (decided by Eight and Six Judges respectively) the legal position regarding the existence of the fundamental right to privacy is doubtful. Further… in a catena of decisions of this Court rendered subsequently, this Court referred to “right to privacy”, contrary to the judgments in the abovementioned cases which resulted in a jurisprudentially impermissible divergence of judicial opinions.

While we are not concerned here with whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right in India, it is fair to say that if it were to be held not to be a fundamental right, it would be difficult to justify the existence of a right to privacy in any sense in Indian law, unless Parliament enacted legislation to create such a right by statute. The right to privacy is not a right at common law, which goes also to suggest that there is no common law tort that arises out of a violation of privacy per se.

We will not analyse the various judgments of the Supreme Court on this issue here, but it is safe to assume that even the ‘tortious’ right to privacy in India has found life essentially as a corollary of the argument that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. If it is found not to be a fundamental right, there would be no legal basis for the ‘tortious’ right to privacy to survive.

The criminal defamation case

In the criminal defamation case, it has been argued on behalf of the Union that one of the justifications for the law of criminal defamation (Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860) is that it deters undesirable intrusion into a person’s private life. As this report indicates:

The Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India

The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that live-in relationships should be seen as an “acceptable norm,” and pointed to how reputations of public personalities are often sullied in public because someone pried into their private life… What a public figure does in the evening at his home, I don’t think it would serve any public good even if it is the truth. Public figure is known for discharge of public functions, actions and transaction of business. This [live-in relationship] is matter of private life. There is distinction between conduct in private and public life.

Again, while we are not concerned here with whether the law of criminal defamation is constitutionally valid, it is fair to say that this particular justification for it strongly hints at protecting a person’s privacy. The Supreme Court may decide that there are other justifications for the law of criminal defamation, but it would be difficult to argue that one of those justifications is the protection of a person’s privacy, unless it also accepted that that person has a right to privacy in the first place.

The contradiction

So, is there, or isn’t there a right to privacy in India? In the Aadhaar case, the Union’s argument is that there isn’t. However, in the criminal defamation case, the Union’s argument assumes that there is. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court eventually resolves this question, which arises independently in each case.

Bear in mind that it is theoretically possible for it to be decided, without inconsistency, that the right to privacy is not a fundamental right in India – indeed, it is not a right at all – and at the same time, to uphold the constitutional validity of the law of criminal defamation in India, as long as the protection of a person’s privacy is not one of the justifications for that law. Equally, it can be said without inconsistency that the right to privacy is a fundamental right in India, but the law of criminal defamation is constitutionally unsound, despite one of its purposes being the protection of a person’s privacy.

Of course, there is no fear of contradiction in the law as far as the right to privacy is concerned if it is held that:

– the right to privacy is not a fundamental right, and the law of criminal defamation is constitutionally invalid, or

– conversely, the right to privacy is a fundamental right, and the law of criminal defamation is found to be constitutionally valid

Some readers must be thinking, “What about privacy and the restriction on access to internet pornography?” All of this is for the Supreme Court to iron out. Rather ironically, privacy seems to be everywhere these days!

(Aditya Verma is an advocate based in New Delhi.)  

Human Rights Litigation

Legal aid system faces fundamental questions as scattered approach, problems with data, and state-level neglect don’t help

Sumathi_Chandrashekaran_LongRoadToJusticeReformThe Prime Minister’s now forgotten comment about “five star activists” in India’s courts provoked some introspection on public interest lawyering and legal aid systems. Some of the questions that arise do not have simple answers. For instance, do we know how much it costs to take up a cause in the court system and fight it through till the end? Do the funds allocated towards legal aid meet that requirement?

The most visible form of public interest lawyering is in that of the PIL, or “public interest litigation”. PILs came into their own in the 1980s as a form of litigation to protect the rights of people who are disadvantaged in some way or other. They necessarily involve public rights.

The cost of public interest lawyering

There is limited data on how many PILs are filed each year and on whose behalf, what course they take, and how much it costs. Varun Gauri of the World Bank, who attempted an empirical study some years ago of PILs at the Supreme Court, faced many challenges relating to the classification of cases and other data, and interestingly, concluded that only a very small number of cases were brought to the courts by co-operative entities like non-governmental organisations (“NGOs”).

The classification of cases as being those in public interest is one challenge. Identifying the costs involved is quite another. One method of studying this question is by understanding how the authorities fund the protection of the rights of disadvantaged persons. Since privately-backed NGOs are not likely to make their expenses public, public authorities are a better source of information. The government does not, as would be expected, have a budget for public interest litigation. However, it does make provision for legal aid, through the elaborately structured Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (“LSA Act”).

The cost of providing free legal services to the needy

The main body constituted under the LSA Act is the National Legal Services Authority (“NALSA”). It was set up in 1995 to provide “free and competent” legal services to the needy. The challenge it has faced over the years has been to ensure that this goal is really met.

NALSA’s funding has increased by more than five times between 2008-09 and 2015-16. According to the Union Budget, which apportions funds to NALSA, this money is meant to provide for “Law Officers, Legal Advisers and Counsels and also for Legal aid to the poor through National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).” It is not clear as to what portion of this amount is meant for the NALSA secretariat and its administration and management.


We may be able to understand NALSA’s expenditure in connection with legal aid better by dividing its budgetary allocation for a given year by the number of cases it addressed that year. Unfortunately, NALSA does not provide this data in a proper form. Its website only hosts one spreadsheet, according to which 7,178,178 cases were addressed through a lok adalat held on November 23, 2013.

Assuming that this was the only lok adalat held that year, then the approximate expense per settlement (based on the budget for 2013-14) would be a little less than Rs. 150. If more than one lok adalat was held by NALSA that year, which is a more likely scenario, then the cost per settlement would be much less. Does that seem odd? Or is it that India’s premier legal aid institution, in fact, functions with great efficiency and fiscal prudence?

Lok adalats are only a small part of NALSA’s role in providing legal aid. And that, in fact, is a major area of concern in the manner in which publicly funded legal aid services are designed in India. Under the LSA Act, the body is responsible for a host of activities.

It is supposed to assist identified categories of persons (such as women, children, members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and disabled persons) in various aspects of mundane legal proceedings, such as the payment of court fees, arranging for lawyers, preparing briefs, and obtaining certified copies of documents.

It also has to host lok adalats periodically to help affected persons resolve their problems through alternate dispute resolution methods.

The NALSA is supposed to establish legal aid clinics in universities and colleges. It is also expected to periodically support the government of the day in implementing social sector schemes (such as through the Scheme for Supporting the Implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA), 2008).

Scattered approach, lack of data

In effect, NALSA is expected to multi-task on issues that actually need to be dealt with separately. The implementation of social sector schemes for instance, should not be mixed up with lok adalats. If the lakhs of cases that lok adalats “settle” include ensuring the issue of an Aadhaar card, is NALSA really performing its role in providing legal aid services? In fact, it appears as though NALSA has become a repository of leftovers in the legal aid landscape.

It also does not help that data on NALSA is practically absent. Besides occasional newspaper articles that claim that an extraordinarily large number of cases have been settled at a lok adalat (for example, see this), there is no information about the institution’s operations. The LSA Act requires it “to maintain up-to-date and complete statistical information, including progress made in the implementation of various Legal Services Programmes from time to time” (Section 6(g)). The information on its website (where such statistical information ought to be made available) suggests this requirement has not been met for several years.

NALSA is not the only body responsible for legal aid. It is, in fact, at the helm of an entire network of legal services authorities that permeate through the state, district, and taluka system in India.

Neglected state legal aid system poised for further neglect

The State Legal Services Authorities  (“SLSAs”) perform a role similar to NALSA at the state level. They have received funds from the Thirteenth Finance Commission grants-in-aid made to state governments, but the Fourteenth Finance Commission has changed the funding structure slightly.

Unlike previous Finance Commissions that had recommended that state governments should receive a share in tax collections as well as sector- or scheme-specific grants-in-aid, the Fourteenth Finance Commission (download report) reduced grants-in-aid, and instead recommended an increased devolution of tax revenues to state governments.

In the area of justice reform, the Finance Commission specifically endorsed a proposal made by the Department of Justice (in the Union government) to strengthen judicial systems in states, but instead of offering grants-in-aid, urged state governments to use the additional tax revenues to meet such requirements.


The history of the utilitisation of the funds received by state governments from the Thirteenth Finance Commission suggests that most states are not inclined to fully use the funds they receive in aid. Since it is very unlikely that they will voluntarily allocate funds to projects that they are anyway not interested in, the future for SLSAs and legal aid at the state level does not look rosy.

In order to truly provide “free and competent” legal aid, it is essential to address some fundamental questions. What are the contours of legal aid? Is it ever-expanding and osmotic, or should it be restricted to court-related services? How many people really need free legal aid? Should there be economic criteria for providing such aid, or should criteria be socially prescribed? For instance, should every woman, regardless of her financial position, be entitled to free legal aid? How much does it cost to provide such legal aid? And what is the optimal organisational structure, if any such structure is required at all, for such an arrangement? The existing legal aid services mechanism in India needs to be urgently recast in light of these, and many other, questions.

(Sumathi Chandrashekaran is a lawyer working in the area of public policy.)

Human Rights

The National Green Tribunal has restricted access to justice

PrashantReddyAmong the many tribunals established during the last decade, the National Green Tribunal (“NGT”) is the one that is most often in the news these days. Set up in 2010 by the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, its main purpose was to provide for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases related to the environment.

After several initial hiccups, lack of infrastructure, and constitutional challenges (which remain pending), the NGT has become rather active over the last couple of years. Many of its orders, including the one banning vehicles that are more than 15 years old, have a massive impact on society, both in terms of employment losses and pollution control.

Like most other tribunals constituted over the last decade, the NGT too is poorly designed and there is enough evidence to believe that it may be doing more harm than good. One of the many reasons for questioning the effectiveness of the NGT is the fact that its jurisdiction, both territorial and subject-matter, fails to properly ensure affordable access to justice for citizens across India.

The seat of the NGT is the first issue. According to the website of the NGT, “New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other four place of sitting of the Tribunal.” This is quite pathetic given that the subject matter jurisdiction of the NGT covers environmental law across a country so vast that it is classified as a sub-continent.


The National Green Tribunal at Delhi

When the Law Commission originally studied the issue of ‘Environmental Courts’ in its 186th Report, it had recommended having one environmental court in every state and had counselled against the “Government’s proposal of a single appellate Court at Delhi, which will be beyond the reach of affected parties.” For reasons that are not clear, the government completely ignored this and focussed the resources of the newly created NGT to Delhi, with a promise to allocate resources to four more locations.

The NGT’s subject matter of jurisdiction is another issue. As of now, the NGT has both appellate powers and original powers. Its appellate powers are exercised against orders passed by statutory authorities under various environmental legislation such as the Air Act and the Water Act. In pursuance of its original powers, the NGT can award damages for death or injury to any person or property if the same has resulted from “an accident or the adverse impact of an activity or operation or process”, under any of the special environmental legislation specified in Schedule I of the NGT Act. While consolidating the appellate power in the tribunal is not per se problematic, concentrating all powers to grant damages under environmental legislation with the NGT alone is a recipe for throttling access to justice because Section 29(2) of the NGT Act, 2010 completely bars the jurisdiction of civil courts in all such matters. In its report, the Law Commission had very rightly argued against such an approach.

The plaintiff should have the option of choosing between an ordinary civil court or a specialist forums such as the environmental court, the Law Commisson had argued. “As of now, for example, if a chimney in a neighbour’s house is releasing polluted air or a small sewage channel from one house or land is creating pollution to a neighbour’s house or land, parties in villages are able to approach the nearest munsif Courts which are quite accessible to these villages. If we oust the jurisdiction of these Courts, villagers cannot be expected to go all the way to the seat of the Environment Court for each adjournment and contest the same.

Not only did the Central Government not accept the Law Commission’s first recommendation of having environmental courts in each state, it also ignored the second recommendation of allowing citizens to choose between civil courts and a specialist court. As a result we have a situation today where the jurisdiction over environmental matters, which was previously spread across the high courts and the civil courts in the country, is now concentrated with a single tribunal, one that is barely able to sit in five different cities across the entire country.

A corollary of such an arrangement is that environmental jurisprudence is now concentrated with just seven judges. This is not necessarily good news because such an arrangement vests too much judicial power in the hands of only a few judges.

The NGT is a perfect example of how the executive has botched up yet another tribunal and how the Supreme Court has done little to step in and remedy the situation.

(Prashant Reddy is a Delhi-based intellectual property lawyer.)

Human Rights

Transfer system, mental capacity assessment in juvenile justice bill violate equality rights

ArleneManoharan_SwagataRaha_ShrutiRamakrishnan_CCLDisagreement on vital issues of constitutionality did not stop the passage of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 (“the Bill”) in the Lok Sabha. Apart from the floor of the Parliament, these issues were also raised in submissions to the Parliamentary Standing Committee and in the print and visual media.

In a drastic and regressive move, the Bill proposes the introduction of a transfer system so that children aged between 16 and 18 years and alleged to have committed ‘heinous offences’ can now be tried and sentenced as adults.

The right to equality under Article 14 and the special protection for children under Article 15(3)

By treating adolescents as adults, the proposed system will incorrectly treat two distinct categories equally. This strikes at the very core of Article 14. The Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed as part of the Article 14 mandate (See, M. Nagaraj v. Union of India, AIR 2007 SC 71 and Joginder Nath v. Union of India, AIR 1975 SC 511), the principle that injustice arises not only when equals are treated unequally, but also when unequals are treated equally.

This animation, comprised of MRI scans, show changes in the brain between the ages of 5 and 20. Red indicates more grey matter and blue indicates less.

This animation, comprised of MRI scans, shows changes in the brain between the ages of 5 and 20. Red indicates more grey matter and blue indicates less.

Advances in neuroscience show that adolescents are neurobiologically distinct from adults. Even though persons in this age group may ‘know what they are doing is wrong’, they have been shown incontrovertibly to be unable to act on that knowledge and restrain themselves. This is because they underestimate risk, are susceptible to negative influences, and lack foresight.

They are also more amenable to reform and rehabilitative interventions because of the plasticity of their brains. As stated in an amicus brief for the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers before the Supreme Court of the United States in Miller v. Alabama, juveniles “typically outgrow their antisocial behaviour as the impetuousness and recklessness of youth subside in adulthood”.

The special protection of 16 to 18 year olds, present in the current law and negated by the Bill, is saved by Article 15(3) of the Constitution, which permits special legal provisions for women and children because uniform laws cannot address the particular vulnerability of women and children. The transfer system militates against this goal as well as the overall objective of the Bill to ensure care, protection, and the ultimate rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law.

The constitutional prohibition on procedural arbitrariness under Articles 14 and 21

The Bill requires the Juvenile Justice Board to assess, along with the circumstances in which the heinous offence was allegedly committed, whether the child offender had the physical and mental capability to commit the offence. The latest research indicates that individualised assessments of adolescent mental capacity are not possible. Any suggestion that it can be done would mean “exceeding the limits of science”. (See, Bonnie & Scott, “The Teenage Brain: Adolescent Research and the Law”, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(2) 158–161 (2013), p.161.)

The assessment proposed in the Bill is fraught with errors and arbitrariness and will allow inherent biases to determine which child is transferred to an adult court. The assessment also violates the principle of presumption of innocence as it operates on the assumption that the child has committed the offence.

Procedural arbitrariness is inherent in the assessment of reformation by the Children’s Court

When a juvenile sentenced by the Children’s Court attains the age of 21 years, she or he will be subjected to another assessment to determine whether or not the person has reformed and can make contributions to society.

Already, half the children apprehended for offences come from families with an annual income of less than Rs. 25,000 while only 0.55% of the children apprehended come from families with an annual income of more than Rs. 3,00,000 (See, Crime in India, 2013, Compendium, National Crime Records Bureau (2014), pg 4.) Undoubtedly, the provisions of the Bill will result in class, caste and religion-based targeting of children under the garb of assessing their potential contribution to society and extent of reformation.

Protection against disqualification violates the right to life under Article 21 and the right to equality under Article 14

Maneka Gandhi (right), the Union Minister for Women and Child Development introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha. Shashi Tharoor spoke about the problems with treating 16-18 year olds as adults.

Maneka Gandhi (right), the Union Minister for Women and Child Development introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha. Shashi Tharoor spoke about the problems with treating 16-18 year olds as adults.

Children between 16 and 18 years found to be in conflict with the law under Clause 20(1)(i) will incur disqualifications. While all children are protected against disqualification attached to conviction, the Bill deprives children convicted of heinous offences of this protection, thus discriminating among children based on the forum for trial, the offence, and the age.

They will therefore have to declare the conviction while applying for jobs or traveling abroad. The record of conviction will stigmatise them and make their rehabilitation and re-integration impossible.

The right to life entails the right to livelihood as well as a life of dignity. This stands compromised through the retention of the record of conviction and the withdrawal of protection from disqualification. This also means that a finding of ‘reformation’ and the ability to make a positive contribution to society based on another arbitrary assessment proposed under Clause 21 will be rendered meaningless, as the conviction will be held against the child for life.

The Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development also highlighted these constitutional concerns in its Two Hundred Sixty-Fourth Report. In para 3.21, it concluded that, “the existing juvenile system is not only reformative and rehabilitative in nature but also recognises the fact that 16-18 years is an extremely sensitive and critical age requiring greater protection. Hence, there is no need to subject them to different or adult judicial system as it will go against Articles 14 and 15(3) of the Constitution.

Policy consensus based on evidence has to precede law making in a Parliamentary democracy. Examples from western countries that have experimented with the transfer system show that such a policy change will only result in higher costs related to incarceration and the deferred costs of the rage and bitterness that come from life in the adult criminal justice system.

Sending juveniles who allegedly commit ‘serious’ crimes to jail on the pretext of public safety is not in the interest of children, families, or the wider community. Placing adolescents who are at a difficult transitional phase in their lives along with adult criminals will only serve to place these young people at risk of being physically, sexually and emotionally abused and being further criminalised. This regressive outcome is in stark contrast to our constitutional mandate and the rehabilitative aims outlined even in the preamble of this Bill.

Swagata Raha, Arlene Manoharan, and Shruthi Ramakrishnan are from the Centre for Child and the Law, NLSIU Bangalore.