Plea Of Juvenility Can Be Raised Even After Conviction, Sentence: Punjab & Haryana High Court
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has observed that the plea of juvenility can be raised by a person even after the disposal of the case in terms of conviction and sentence, as per which plea, the authorities shall be bound to conduct an age determination inquiry.
The Court was dealing with a petition filed by a person who had committed an offence at the age of a little over 16 years in the year 1995. As per the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, a male was considered to be a juvenile till the age of 16 years and female till the age of 18 years, which was raised to 18 years for males through the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
The petitioner was convicted and sentenced in 2012 for offences committed in 1995 under Sections 148, 302, 307, 323 and 364 of the IPC and moved the High Court under Section 482 of the CrPC seeking order for inquiry to determine his age as contemplated under the 2000 Act.
He contended that even though on the date of the alleged occurrence of the crime, his age was 16 years, 03 months and 25 days (which was not the age of juvenility as per the 1986 Act), at the time of the pendency of the trial, the enactment of 2000 had come into force.
The petitioner contended that he was arrested in 2011 and thereafter his trial commenced and he was convicted and sentenced in 2012, on all of which dates, he was a juvenile as per the enactment of 2000. Accordingly, he argued that he had to be given the benefit of juvenility under Section 20 of the 2000 Act.
The State, on the other hand, contended that since the plea of juvenility was never raised by the petitioner at any point of time either before the Trial Court or the High Court during appeal, he was rightly dealt with as a convict.
The division bench of Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu and Justice Lalit Batra said:
“Section 7-A of Act, 2000, provides that claim of juvenility can be raised before any Court, at any stage, even after final disposal of the case and if the Court finds a person to be a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence, it is to forward the juvenile to the Board for passing appropriate orders, and the sentence, if any, passed by a Court, shall be deemed to have no effect. Even though the offence in this case may have been committed before the enactment of the Act, 2000, the petitioner is entitled to the benefit of juvenility under Section 7-A of the Act, 2000, if on inquiry, it is found that he was less than 18 years of age on the date of the alleged offence.”
The Court, after examining the school leaving certificate, photocopy of the school register and the grade sheet of the petitioner said that:
“Petitioner has placed on record 'School Leaving Certificate' issued on 19.05.1989, Certificate dated 11.03.2016 issued by Gram Panchayat, Bisambera and photocopy of School Register, wherein date of birth of petitioner has been recorded '06.07.1979'…The incident which led to the conviction of petitioner took place in the intervening night of 30/31.10.1995. The petitioner claims that he was born on 06.07.1979 and as such on the date of incident, he was aged 16 years, 03 months and 25 days. Therefore, the material placed before this Court by the petitioner, prima facie, suggests that he was a 'juvenile' as defined in the Act, 2000, on the date of incident.”
Accordingly, the High Court allowed the petition and directed the Sessions Court, Mewat at Nuh to examine the claim of juvenility raised by the petitioner and submit a report to the High Court within one month of the order.
The Court added that:
“The Sessions Court shall be entitled to examine the authenticity and genuineness of the documents sought to be relied upon by the petitioner…in the event the documents are found to be questionable, it will be open to the Sessions Court to have the petitioner medically examined by taking an ossification test or any other modern recognized method of age determination.”
Case Title: ABC v. State of Haryana
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (PH) 13
Case No: CRM-M-44156-2016 (O&M)
Coram: Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu and Justice Lalit Batra