The Supreme Court today held that the main accused in the infamous Mercedes hit and run case of 2016 will be tried as a juvenile, and not as an adult. Faced with two possible interpretations of law, the Court chose the view in favour of children..The case pertains to a 2016 incident where a 32-year-old man lost his life in a road accident after being hit by a Mercedes. The car was allegedly being driven by a teenager who was just days away from attaining the age of majority. The main question before the Court was whether the accused ought to be tried as a juvenile or as an adult..This case also raised the important question of law as to what constitutes "heinous offence" under Section 2(33) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act).According to the JJ Board's decision, since the teenager was accused of charges under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), he was to be tried as an adult owing to the "heinous offence" he was charged with. The Delhi High Court, however, ruled in 2019 that the offence does not have a minimum sentence specified and therefore it cannot fall within the ambit of Section 2(33) of the JJ Act. This led to the appeal before the Supreme Court.While delving into the questions of law, the Bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose noted that the JJ Act of 2015 took a departure from the previous Acts of 1986 and 2000 and categorised offences into classes of petty, serious, and heinous offences..The JJ Act, in no unambiguous terms, states that a juvenile is any person who is below the age of 18 and Section 2(33) of the JJ Act of 2015 categorically states that an offence for which the minimum sentence of seven years imprisonment or more is prescribed shall be treated as a heinous crime.The Act provides for the JJ Board to carry out preliminary inquiry in case of heinous crimes being allegedly committed by juveniles above the age of 16.The offence in the instant case fell within the fourth category - where either the prescribed minimum term is less than seven years or there is no minimum sentence prescribed at all.This lacuna as regards the legislation was pointed out by the appellant, who argued that if definitions are read literally, a large number of offences would be left out of the three categories. However, if the minimum prescription from the definition of "heinous offence" is removed, then all offences not falling within the umbrella of petty or serious offence would fit within the scope of the term.This argument, however, was countered by the respondent, who argued that the courts cannot rewrite the law.While agreeing with the appellant's logic that all offences would "fall in place" if the minimum prescription was removed, the Court also went to say that it was "not solving a jigsaw puzzle".."We are not solving a jigsaw puzzle where we have to put all the pieces in place. We are interpreting a statute which must be interpreted as per its language and intent."Supreme Court.The Court said that it can add or subtract words or phrases during interpretation of a statute when the intent and object behind it is clear. In the present case, however, the Court says that it was faced with a conundrum regarding the intent of the Legislature while specifying the categories of offences and leaving a host of them out from the scope of all the three categories.The Court agreed with the submission made on behalf of the appellant that in a given circumstance, it can even add or subtract words from a statute."However, when the wording of the statute is clear but the intention of the Legislature is unclear, the Court cannot add or subtract words from the statute to give it a meaning which the Court feels would fit into the scheme of things."It was also noted that the purpose of the 2015 Act was to ensure that children are not tried like adults.Therefore, the Court ruled that the offences in the "fourth category", which have not been included in any category, shall be treated as serious offences till the time the Legislature fills the gap and clearly spells out its intent.."We are conscious of the views expressed by us above that this Court cannot legislate... Since two views are possible we would prefer to take a view which is in favour of children and, in our opinion, the Legislature should take the call in this matter."Supreme Court.The accused in the instant case therefore would be dealt with in the same manner as a juvenile who is alleged to have committed a serious offence and would not be tried as an adult, the Court ruled. The appellant was represented by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra. Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi and Advocate Hrishikesh Baruah appeared for the respondent juvenile accused.