Upholding the conviction of two accused who raised their plea of juvenility before the Supreme Court for the first time, the apex court has said the validity of the conviction in respect of the incident which occurred almost two decades back ought to be decided in appeals and the entire of the proceedings including the punishment/sentence awarded should not be interfered with on the mere ground that the accused were juveniles on the date of commission of the alleged crime.
In a two-decade-old crime, a regular criminal court had found the accused guilty of offences punishable under several provisions of the Indian Penal Code and a sentence of rigorous imprisonment of three years was the maximum of the punishments imposed on the accused. The high court had affirmed the trial court judgment.
Later, the accused approached the apex court and took a plea of juvenility for the first time. The state also admitted that they were juvenile on the date of occurrence of the offences.
The bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R Banumathi referred to the judgment in Jitendra Singh alias Babboo Singh versus State of Uttar Pradesh wherein it was observed: “In one set of cases this Court has found the juvenile guilty of the crime alleged to have been committed by him but he has gone virtually unpunished since this Court quashed the sentence awarded to him. In another set of cases, this Court has taken the view, on the facts of the case that the juvenile is adequately punished for the offence committed by him by serving out some period in detention. In the third set of cases, this Court has remitted the entire case for consideration by the jurisdictional Juvenile Justice Board, both on the innocence or guilt of the juvenile as well as the sentence to be awarded if the juvenile is found guilty. In the fourth set of cases, this Court has examined the case on merits and after having found the juvenile guilty of the offence, remitted the matter to the jurisdictional Juvenile Justice Board on the award of sentence.”
Adopting one such approach, the bench said: “Judicial approaches must always be realistic and have some relation to the ground realities. We, therefore, adopt one of the possible approaches that has been earlier adopted by this Court in the four categories of cases mentioned above to examine the correctness of the conviction of the accused-appellants under the provisions of the IPC, as noticed above.”
With regard to the approach to be adopted for sentencing, the bench said: “Having regard to the long efflux of time we are of the view that it will not be necessary, in the facts of the present cases, to cause a remand of the matter to the Juvenile Justice Board for a decision on the quantum of sentence for the reason even if such a remand is made and the Juvenile Justice Board comes to a decision that in addition to the period of custody suffered by the accused appellants they need to suffer a further period of custody, such custody can only be in a remand home or a protection home to which places the accused appellants, because of their age as on today, cannot be sent.“
Confirming the conviction, the court then ordered that the sentence imposed on accused should be modified to one of the period undergone.