New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed concern over the "extremely large" number of cases pending before the Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) across the country with Uttar Pradesh alone accounting for 34,569 cases as it said that not more than 100 cases should be pending before any JJB.
Taking note of the large number of pending cases, the social justice bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit flayed the woman and child development ministry for its lack of concern for children in conflict with law and imposed a cost of Rs.25,000 for not filing an affidavit giving details of online mechanism for juveniles.
Recording its "displeasure", the court said that it can't "appreciate the lack of concern for the children of the country" by the ministry and was "distressed by the lack of concern".
In a series of directions issued on Friday, the bench said that the state governments should ensure that there is a JJB in every district and all the vacancies are filled up by December 31.
The court also noted that there were a "large number of posts of supporting staff lying unfulfilled" and directed that same too be filed up by December 31.
The court's directions came in the wake of the NALSA report which pointed to several deficiencies on the distant location of observation homes for juveniles in conflict with law from the JJSs, JJBs work being a task that was besides the regular work of the magistrate attached to it, number of sittings that JJBs hold each week and lack of lawyers on the panel of JJBs and the other issues.
Among the directions it issued, the court said that the location of the observation care homes should be in the proximity of the JJBs as it noted that in Assam, the distance between the JJB and observation home was more than 400 km and called this "totally unacceptable".
It said that the number of sitting of the JJBs should be commensurate to the number of cases and whether there should be a magistrate exclusively dealing with JJB matters should be depend on the number of cases.
Noting that Pune alone had more cases than those in entire Karnataka, the court said: "We find the number of three sitting a week of the JJB is extremely inadequate and it should meet every day."
With Pune having 1,935 cases pending, "there is no reason why they (Pune) should not have more than one JJB", it said.
The court also clarified that the number of JJBs could be more than one as is prevailing today to deal with the large number of cases.
"The States/UTs must have a JJB in every district and there is no prohibition in law from having more than one JJB in districts depending on the number of cases."
The court also sought "adequate number of lawyers" on the State Legal Authority's panel in each state and training of the probationary officers.
The court will further hear the matter on September 11.