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Pune Porsche Case: Bombay High Court Orders Boy’s Release from Observation Home

Pune Porsche Case: Bombay High Court Orders Boy’s Release from Observation Home

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 25: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday ordered the release from observation home of the 17-year old boy whose drunk driving of the luxury Porsche car took the lives of motorbike-borne two young software engineers in their twenties on Pune road on May 19 sparking of nation-wide outrage.

“We are bound by law, the aims and objectives of the Juvenile Justice Act and must treat him as any child in conflict with law separately from adult, despite the seriousness of the crime,” said the division bench of Justice Bharati Dangre and Justice Manjusha Deshpande.

The court observed that the Juvenile Justice Board’s order, remanding him in an observation home, was illegal and passed without jurisdiction. It clarified that the teenager is under rehabilitation and had been referred to a psychologist and these sessions will continue.

“We allow the petition and order his release. The CCL (Child in Conflict with Law) shall be in the care and custody of the petitioner (paternal aunt).” “Amid the immediate reaction to the accident, the kneejerk reaction and the public outcry, the CCL’s age was not considered.”‘ “The CCL is under 18 years old. His age needs to be considered.”

The court noted that rehabilitation was the “primary objective.” “The CCL (child in conflict with law) is under 18. His age needs to be considered,” the court said. While passing the order, the court also declared the impugned remand orders as illegal and set them aside.

The bench had queried if it amounted to confinement when the juvenile accused in the Pune Porsche case was granted bail but was taken back in custody and kept in an observation home.

The verdict was passed on a habeas corpus petition filed by the minor’s aunt who is seeking the accused’s release from the observation home. The 17-year-old accused in the case is released into the care and custody of the petitioner aunt. The teen will now be under the care of his aunt, as his parents and grandfather have been arrested for an attempted cover-up. After the release, the minor must continue his sessions with the psychologist, the court directed.

Prashant Patil, the lawyer for the boy’s aunt, said the Section 12 of the Juvenile Justice Act is clear: a child in conflict with law cannot be detained. “Our case was simple. Based purely on law, a child in conflict with law cannot be detained in the manner in which he was detained in this case.”

Late on May 19, the speeding Porsche driven by the teen had hit a bike. Engineers Ashwini Kostha and Aneesh Awadhiya, who were on the bike, were killed on the spot. Eyewitnesses claimed that the teen, who was with two friends, was heavily drunk at the time of the accident. CCTV footage from a pub he had visited showed him drinking with his friends before the crash. The teen was thrashed by the crowd that had gathered at the accident spot and handed over to cops.

Within 15 hours of the accident, the teen, son of a prominent Pune realtor, was out on bail. The bail conditions set by the Juvenile Justice Board were widely seen as flimsy and sparked widespread outrage — he was asked to write a 300-word essay on accidents, work with traffic police for 15 days and seek counselling for his drinking habit. Amid public outrage, the Juvenile Justice Board modified its order and sent the teenager to an observation home.

The police’s investigation, meanwhile, revealed shocking attempts by his family members to hush up the matter. The probe found that blood samples were switched to manipulate the teenager’s report, and the family’s driver was threatened and asked to take the blame. As the probe widened, the police arrested the boy’s parents and his grandfather.

Earlier this month, the boy’s paternal aunt approached the Bombay High Court and challenged the boy’s detention. The petition said the order remanding the teenager in the observation home was in “complete violation” of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

“It is alleged that the CCL (child in conflict with law) was behind the wheel and was driving under the influence of alcohol when the accident occurred. Before going to the other important facts that are relevant for adjudication of the present petition, it is necessary to highlight that, no matter from what perception this unfortunate incident is looked at, it was an accident and the person who was said to be driving the vehicle was a minor,” the petitioner said.

The high court had earlier noted that while two people had lost their lives, “the child was also in trauma.” It had also asked police the provision under which the juvenile justice board modified its bail order. The bench noted that police have not filed any application before a higher court, seeking cancellation of the bail order passed by the board.

“What type of remand is this? What is the power to remand? What kind of procedure is this where a person has been granted bail and then a remand is passed taking him in custody,” the court said. “He is a person who has been granted bail, but now he has been confined to an observation home. Is this not confinement? We would like to know your source of power,” the court had asked, adding that it expected the Juvenile Justice Board to be responsible.

The High Court had earlier observed that while his driving caused the accident taking two lives, he also probably was in “shock” and it was natural, therefore, to assume his mental faculties would have been adversely affected. The court’s observation came even as it acknowledged the families of the two killed were still facing mental and physical trauma over news of their deaths.

Appearing for the aunt, Senior Advocate Aabad Poonda said Section 104 of the Juvenile Justice Act does not allow for a minor accused on bail to be sent to an observation home until the earlier order was revoked. In this case, Mr Poonda said, the boy’s bail order had been amended, not cancelled.

“The basic rule is to grant bail to juveniles under the JJ Act. But if you want to put someone in jail, first you cancel bail. When police moved application under Section 104, Juvenile Board only amended earlier order. Only when bail is refused can minor be sent to observation home…”

Mr Poonda also flagged Section 39 of the JJ Act, which says a minor accused can only be sent to an observation home if bail is refused. “In this case bail was not refused…” he pointed out.

Appearing for the prosecution, Advocate Hiten Venegavkar said particular circumstances – including the teen being under the influence of alcohol – had led the Juvenile Board to modify its order. The original, he argued, had been passed after authorities’ failure in not reporting facts of the crime. The reference was to police officers who sought first to downplay the seriousness of the incident by not reporting the deaths to a control room and then delaying administering blood alcohol level tests.

“It is unfortunate our own people didn’t present facts before the Juvenile Board on May 19. He was shown ‘fit’ and ‘not under the influence of alcohol.’ The circumstances presented that day led to pass the order being passed…” he said suggesting bail should never have been granted.

On the petitioner’s argument the teen cannot be sent to a remand home after bail is granted, the prosecution replied, “… this is completely absurd.” “The minor accused was sent to an observation home, under the supervision of a probation officer, as per an amendment in Section 104.”

The amendment says custody of the minor can change between family and probation officers. The prosecution pointed out the original custodian of the child was the grandfather, but that he had since been arrested and is behind bars, as are the father and mother, leaving no ‘fit’ guardian.




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