New Delhi: Juvenile Justice Board would be competent to decide on the controversy over whether the teenager accused in the Mercedes hit-and-run case should be tried as a major since he was just four days shy of his 18th birthday on the day of the accident, legal experts say.
"Since the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015 has come into force on January 1, 2016, whether the accused teenager cab driver be tried as an adult should be decided by the JJB," senior advocate K T S Tulsi said.
Explaining the procedure, he said the Board will carry out a "preliminary assessment" as to whether the crime was of a heinous nature and also "whether the accused has the level of understanding and maturity to be tried as an adult".
Tulsi, also a Rajya Sabha member, said the fact that the boy was just four days short of his 18th birthday would have a bearing on deciding his level of understanding, which develops through a "gradual process" and not suddenly when he attains adulthood.
On whether the previous conduct of the accused would have a bearing on how he should be tried, Tulsi said the accused should be found guilty and, that too of having committed a heinous offence, for it to be considered as a factor while determining how he should be tried.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, who was also of a similar view, said that once the matter is before the Board, it is an appropriate body to decide on the category of crime and accordingly put the accused on trial. However, juvenile law expert advocate Anant Asthana attacked the media for "unnecessarily hyping" the issue as the accused was driving a Mercedes.
"Law is in place and it will take the issue to its logical end. If someone has done wrong, they will be punished as per law," Asthana said.
He further said that this was not the first case of a motor accident and there are many more which go unnoticed.
"Media should not force the authority to change the law and it should stop itself from sensationalising the issue," he added.
Meanwhile, senior advocate Rebecca John, said it was too "premature to say anything at this stage as the JJ Board was dealing with the issue and not enough facts regarding the case as well as his past conduct are available. She, however, said that generally if the accused minor is a first-time offender, then he may not be tried as an adult. "There has to be previous instances of serious or heinous crimes having been committed," she added.
The incident took place on April 4 when 32-year-old marketing executive Siddharth Sharma was trying to cross a road near Ludlow Castle School in North Delhi and the speeding Mercedes, allegedly driven by the accused, hit and killed him.
A case under IPC sections 304 A (causing death by rash or negligent act), 279 (driving on a public way so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life) and 337 (causing hurt by an act which endangers human life) was lodged. The boy was apprehended and sent to police custody by the JJ Board....