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"Accused Was A Juvenile At The Time Of Occurrence": SC Quashes Life Sentence In A Four Decade Old Murder Case [Read Judgment]

Ashok Kini
8 Oct 2020 6:28 AM GMT
Accused Was A Juvenile At The Time Of Occurrence: SC Quashes Life Sentence In A Four Decade Old Murder Case [Read Judgment]
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The Supreme Court has set aside the life imprisonment sentence imposed on a person accused in a 1981 murder case noticing that he was less than 18 years of age on the date of commission of offence.The bench comprising Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, though upheld the conviction, directed the Juvenile Justice Board to pass orders regarding detention and custody under...

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The Supreme Court has set aside the life imprisonment sentence imposed on a person accused in a 1981 murder case noticing that he was less than 18 years of age on the date of commission of offence.
The bench comprising Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, though upheld the conviction, directed the Juvenile Justice Board to pass orders regarding detention and custody under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 Act.

Satya Deo and two others were convicted by the Trial Court and were sentenced to life imprisonment (on 11.12.1981). The Allahabad High court dismissed their appeal, about 36 years later on 20.04.2018. [They served two years imprisonment before the HC granted them bail]. The Trio were accused of killing one Vimla Saran.

The Supreme Court dismissed the special leave petitions filed by co-accused against Allahabad High Court judgment, but issued notice in the case of Satya Deo on the plea of juvenility. The Trial court was directed to conduct an inquiry to ascertain if Satya Deo was a juvenile on the date of occurrence i.e. 11.12.1981. The report filed before the Apex Court stated that he was 16 years 7 months and 26 days of age on the date of commission of the offence i.e. 11.12.1981. However, the report concluded that he was not a juvenile as per the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986  as he was more than 16 year of age on the date of commission of the offence i.e. 11.12.1981.

In this case, three laws are involved. One is Juvenile Justice Act, 1986,  Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act of 2015. 

'Juvenile' under the 1986 Act, was defined as a person below sixteen years in case of a boy and below eighteen years in case of a girl on the date the boy or girl is brought for first appearance before the court or the competent authority. The 2000 Act did not distinguish between a boy or girl and a person under the age of eighteen years is a juvenile. Further, under the 2000 Act, the age on the date of commission of the offence is the determining factor.

In Pratap Singh v. State of Jharkhand, the Constitution Bench held that the 2000 Act would be applicable in a pending proceeding instituted under the 1986 Act in any court or authority, if the person had not completed eighteen years of age as on 1st April 2001, when the 2000 Act came into force. It was also held that the reckoning date for the determination of the age of the juvenile is the date of the offence and not the date when he is produced before the authority or in a court. The 2000 Act would have prospective effect and not retrospective effect except in cases where the person had not completed the age of eighteen years on the date of commencement of the 2000 Act. Other pending cases would be governed by the provisions of the 1986 Act. 

A subsequent amendment to 2000 Act made it clear that in all cases where a juvenile in conflict with law is undergoing a sentence of imprisonment on the date of commencement of the 2000 Act, the juvenile's case including the issue of juvenility, shall be deemed to be decided in terms of clause (l) to Section 2 and other provisions and rules made under the 2000 Act irrespective of the fact that the juvenile had ceased to be a juvenile.

Taking note of this legal provisions, the bench observed:

This court at this stage can decide and determine the question of juvenility of Satya Deo, notwithstanding the fact that Satya Deo was not entitled to the benefit of being a juvenile on the date of the offence, under the 1986 Act, and had turned an adult when the 2000 Act was enforced. As Satya Deo was less than 18 years of age on the date of commission of offence on 11.12.1981, he is entitled to be treated as a juvenile and be given benefit as per the 2000 Act.

The court also noted that, in terms of Section 25 of the 2015 Act, 2000 Act would continue to apply and govern the proceedings which were pending when the 2015 Act was enforced. Allowing the appeal, the bench said:

We uphold the conviction of Satya Deo, we would set aside the sentence of life imprisonment. We would remit the matter to the jurisdiction of the Board for passing appropriate order/directions under Section 15 of the 2000 Act including the question of determination and payment of appropriate quantum of fine and the compensation to be awarded to the family of the deceased. We make no affirmative or negative comments either way on the order/direction under Section 15 of the 2000 Act. 22. We would, accordingly, direct the jail authorities to produce Satya Deo before the Board within seven days from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment. The Board shall then pass appropriate order regarding detention and custody and proceed thereafter to pass order/directions under the 2000 Act. . 
Case no.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 860 OF 2019 
Case name: SATYA DEO @ BHOOREY vs. STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH
Coram: Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna

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