Supreme Court stated that once a child is caught in the web of the adult criminal justice system, it is difficult for the child to get out of it unscathed and directed the ossification test.
The writ applicant along with other co accused persons was put to trial for the offence punishable under Section 302 r/w 34 of the IPC. The Additional Sessions Judge, Agra held the writ applicant herein and the coaccused persons guilty of the offence of murder and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
An appeal was heard by the High Court and judgment and order came to be dismissed thereby affirming the judgment and order of conviction passed by the trial court.
Advocate Rishi Malhotra, appearing for the writ applicant, submitted that although till the dismissal of the Special Leave Petition by the Court, the convict had not raised the plea of juvenility, yet the law permits him to raise such a plea even at this point of time having regard to the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2011.
He contended that there is clinching evidence on record as on date in the form of certificate issued by the Medical Board as well as the Family Register to indicate that in the year 1982 the writ applicant could be around 15 years of age.
Additional Advocate General Ardhendhumauli Kr. Prasad, appearing for the State, submitted that the Family Register is not admissible in evidence and the entries made therein are not decisive to determine the age.
A division bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice J.B. Pardiwala stated that it is thus well settled that in terms of Section 20 of the 2000 Act, in all cases where the accused was above 16 years but below 18 years of age on the date of occurrence. hte proceedings pending in the Court would continue and be taken to the logical end subject to an exception that upon finding the juvenile to be guilty, the Court would not pass an order of sentence against him but the juvenile would be referred to the Board for appropriate orders under the 2000 Act.
The court said that from a reading of Section 7A what becomes very obvious is that whenever a claim of juvenility is raised, an inquiry has to be made and such inquiry would take place by receiving evidence which would be necessary but not an affidavit so as to determine the age of such a person.
The court observed that the accused has not produced any matriculation certificate or equivalent certificate to prove his age. What is produced by him is only the Family Register issued under the U.P. Panchayat Raj Act, 1947.
A bench said that the document cannot be accepted as equivalent to a matriculation certificate to prove the age of the accused. However, the evidentiary value of the Family Register will have to be looked into in the course of the inquiry.
The court added that in the absence of a reliable and trustworthy medical evidence to find out the age of the appellant, the ossification test conducted in the year 2021 when the appellant was above 50 years of age cannot be conclusive to declare him as a juvenile on the date of the incident.
Sessions Court was directed to examine the claim of the writ applicant to juvenility in regard with law within one month.
The court ordered that the Sessions Court shall ensure that the writ applicant convict is medically examined by taking an ossification test or any other modern recognized method of age determination.
Case title: Vinod Katara v/s State of Uttar Pradesh
Citation: WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 121 OF 2022