Minor Rape Victim Cries Foul Over JJB Holding Accused To Be Under 18 At Time of Crime, Delhi HC Orders Proper Inquiry [Read Order]

Minor Rape Victim Cries Foul Over JJB Holding Accused To Be Under 18 At Time of Crime, Delhi HC Orders Proper Inquiry [Read Order]

As a minor victim of rape cried foul over Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) holding the accused to be a juvenile without any substantial evidence, the Delhi High Court has directed the board to hold proper inquiry before returning a finding on the juvenility claim of the accused, which has already consumed almost two years time since the commission of the offence.

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva set aside December 8, 2016 order of the JJB holding it to be “not sustainable” since the same was passed despite conflicting record of the date of birth of the accused.

The court was in agreement with the argument of the victim that no inquiry was conducted by JJB before determining the age of the accused to be below 18 years and that it relied solely on school record without any foundational document.

The victim, now 15, had approached the high court through advocate Prashant Manchanda after the JJB held the accused to be a juvenile even as she claimed that he was at least 20 years old at the time of the commission of offence.

The girl had befriended the accused on Facebook. On November 8, 2016, she met the accused who kidnapped and intoxicated her and then raped her in a car in Northwest Delhi’s Bawana. The accused then dumped her and she somehow managed to reach home.

A complaint was lodged at the Bawana police station. The Investigating Officer (IO) first told the board that the accused was a major but then changed her stand and produced photocopies of documents from a school said to be first attended by the accused.

On December 8, 2016, the JJB concluded that the accused was a juvenile.

As pointed out by Manchanda before the high court, the school from which the IO procured the register entry was not the school first attended by the accused.

That is not all. He also submitted that the IO had not made any effort to procure record of the age of the accused from the municipal authority and the board went on to uphold his claim of juvenility on the basis of a mere entry in a school register.

Early last year, the high court had stayed the order of JJB and called for a status report from the IO.

A status report filed by the IO showed that there were two conflicting documents with regard to the age of the accused. One was the birth certificate issued by NDMC which showed his date of birth as August 21, 1997. The other document was a record of the school first attended by the accused which shows his date of birth as July 21, 1999.

Manchanda pointed out that the school first attended by the accused is in Haryana and the IO placed reliance solely on the school register without there being any authentic document to verify the age as registered in the school register.

He also claimed that as per his information, the school on whose record the IO has relied is not the school first attended by the accused.

“In the present case, there are two conflicting documents which were sought to be relied on before the Board.

“It is observed that the IO has not procured any foundational document from the school alleged to be the school first attended based on which the entry is made in the school register,” noted Justice Sachdeva.

The court referred to case titled Neelam Devi Mahot vs. State of NCT of Delhi, wherein the high court had held that an entry in the register of the school first attended is relevant, however, the said entry would not be of much evidentiary value in the absence of proof of material being produced before the court based on which the age is recorded. The foundational documents are also to be examined by the board prior to returning a finding based on the entry in the register of the school.

“…in the absence of the foundational documents, Board could not have simply relied on the school register.  Further, it is noticed that there is no reasoning given by the Board except for a mere reference that the certificate is being relied upon,” said the court.

The court then set aside the order of JJB holding it to be “not sustainable” and remitted the matter back to the board to reconsider the record and return a finding on the juvenility claim of the accused after holding proper inquiry as contemplated under the Juvenile Justice Act.

The court also directed the board to expedite the process and conclude it on a day-to-day basis since substantial time has been spent in determining the juvenility claim.

Read the Order here