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Terror courts can’t try juveniles

Chennai, March 19: Special courts trying cases under the new anti-terrorism Act cannot proceed against children, Madras High Court has ruled.

The high court has said such a special court has exceeded its jurisdiction by entertaining a police petition to cancel bail granted to a 15-year-old boy from Dharmapuri district and quashed such proceedings against him.

A similar case has recently hit the headlines in Jharkhand when 16-year-old Janki Bhuyian was booked under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for the ‘dangers’ his father, MCC area commander Sohan Bhuyian, pose to the society.

Prabhakaran, a secondary school student in Tamil Nadu, was arrested with other suspected Naxalites at Uthangkarai last November when a team of the special task force busted a “re-emerging” network of the group. Some arms and explosives were seized. They were later charged under the anti-terror Act.

Prabhakaran had been lodged with other Naxalite prisoners in jail, even as the Krishnagiri principal sessions judge had granted him bail.

But with the anti-terror Act being slapped against them, the cases were transferred to the special court. The prosecution then moved the special court to cancel the earlier bail.

Disposing of a writ petition by the boy’s aunt seeking to prohibit the special court from proceeding against the teenager, Justice K. Sampath of Madras High Court said the case should have been handled under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act. “The Pota (the anti-terrorism law) court, in the present case, has exceeded its jurisdiction and trespassed into another territory. The mischief has to be undone.”

Stating that the rights of children were an integral part of human rights, he said the juvenile justice Act overwhelmingly contemplated “total separation of juveniles from mainstream offenders”.

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