SC Acquits Murder Accused After 20 Years, Finding That He Was Juvenile At The Time Of Incident [Read Judgment]

SC Acquits Murder Accused After 20 Years, Finding That He Was Juvenile At The Time Of Incident [Read Judgment]

Supreme Court acquitted a murder accused after 20 years of commission of alleged murder on the crucial finding that the he was a minor at the time of commission of the offence.

In the case Ashok Kumar Mehra & Anr v. State of Punjab, the appellant along with his father was convicted for the offences under 302 r/w 34 of IPC and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana wherein the order of acquittal of the Sessions Judge was reversed by the High Court on an Appeal and Revision preferred by the State as well as the complainant.

An appeal was sought against the conviction order of the High Court by both the accused, however the father of the appellant expired during the pendency of the appeal and hence his appeal stood abated.

The division bench comprising of Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari of the Supreme Court observed that since the appellant was below 18 years of age during the commission of the offence, he is entitled to the benefit of J.J Act, 2000 by virtue of conjoint reading of sections 2(k), 2(I) and 7A r/w section 20 of the Act as held in Raju v. The State of Harayana.

"In the light of the above legal position, it is evident that the Appellant would be entitled to the benefit of the 2000 Act if his age is determined to be below 18 years on the date of commission of the offence. Moreover, it would be irrelevant that the plea of juvenility was not raised before the Trial Court, in light of Section 7A", held the apex court in Raju v. The State of Harayana.

The bench came to the conclusion that the appellant was 17 years and 5 months on the date of commission of the offence on finding that neither it is not in dispute that the appellant had filed birth certificate before the Sessions Court nor the prosecution raised objection to the correctness of such birth certificate. Further, the court noticed that the respondent had not raised any objection when the Supreme Court granted bail to the appellant in 2011 on the ground of his juvenility.

Moreover, the respondent did not raise any objection in the present appeal as well with regard to the question of his juvenility during the commission of the offence, said the court.

"It is, therefore, an admitted fact that appellant No.2 was a juvenile (he was below the age of 18 years, i.e., he was 17 and 5 months) on the date of the commission of the offence (04.01.1998). In other words, appellant No.2 had not completed the age of 18 years on the date of commission of the offence, i.e., 04.01.1998."

The plea of juvenility of the appellant was not brought before the Sessions Court nor the High Court but was only brought to the notice of the Court in the present appeal, yet, the appellant is entitled to raise plea of Juvenility in light of various decision of the apex court, said the bench.

The bench allowed the appeal and acquitted the appellant without going into the merits of the case on the cogent finding that the appellant was a juvenile during the commission of the offence and by also considering the fact that the appellant had already undergone considerable jail sentence partly as an under-trial and partly as a convict.

[Read Judgment]