Read Order:  SANJAY PATEL AND ANR Vs. THE STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH 

Mansimran Kaur 

New Delhi, April 14, 2022: Ordering that the applicant-accused be forthwith set at liberty, the Supreme Court has allowed a Miscellaneous application of the applicant who underwent 17 years of imprisonment even though he was a juvenile at the time of commission of the offence. The Top Court clarified that if after holding an inquiry, the Court found the accused to be juvenile on the date of commission of the offence, the Court was under a mandate to forward the juvenile to the Juvenile Justice Board for passing appropriate orders.

Considering the fact that the accused had undergone imprisonment for a long time, the Division Bench of Justice  A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Abhay S. Oka said, “The certificate dated 1st August 2021 issued by Senior Superintendent of the concerned jail at Lucknow, records that till 01st August 2021, the applicant has undergone the sentence for 17 years and 03 days. Therefore, now it will be unjust to send the applicant to the Juvenile Justice Board.”

In this case, the applicant-petitioner (second accused)was convicted by the Sessions Court on May 16, 2006  for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. The applicant was sentenced to undergo life imprisonment. The offence was committed on 8th January 2004. Appeals preferred by the applicant and others before the High Court of Allahabad were dismissed. Being aggrieved, Special Leave Petitions were filed by the applicant and others. By the order dated August 13, 2009 , Special Leave Petition, as far as the present applicant is concerned, was dismissed by this Court. 

Consequently, the present Miscellaneous Application was preferred by the applicant/first petitioner contending that at the time of commission of the offence he was a juvenile. Various documents of High School results and of Intermediate Education were presented in order to prove that he was a juvenile at the time of commission of offence. By an order dated January 31, 2022 this Court directed the Juvenile District  Board to hold an enquiry into the claim of the applicant that he was a juvenile at the time of commission of the  offence. 

Pursuant to this order, the Juvenile Board passed an order dated March 4, 2022 holding the correct date of birth of the applicant to be May 16, 1986 and observing that at the time of commission of the offence his age was 17 years 7 months and 23 days. The order was passed after taking into consideration the oral and the documentary evidence on record. The State did not intervene with the same. 

It was further observed that when the offence was committed, the Juvenile Act was in operation. As per the Juvenile Justice(Care & protection of Children) Act, 2000 only the Juvenile Board constituted under Section 4 had the jurisdiction to try cases of juvenile.

The Division Bench said,” Under Section 7A of the 2000 Act, an accused was entitled to raise a claim of juvenility before any Court, even after the final disposal of the case. Such a claim was required to be determined in accordance with the provisions of the 2000 Act. Sub-section (2) of Section 7A provided that if after holding an inquiry, the Court found the accused to be juvenile on the date of commission of the offence, the Court was under a mandate to forward the juvenile to the Juvenile Justice Board for passing appropriate orders. Sub-section (2) of Section 7A further provided that in such a case, the sentence passed by Criminal Court shall be deemed to have no effect in such a case.”

Thus, this Court observed that the competent Juvenile Board after taking into consideration the oral and documentary materials on record was right in its judgment. It was also noted that under Section 15 of the Act, the most rigorous action that could have been taken against the  applicant was to send the applicant to a special home for a period of three years. 

 However, the Court noted that the  certificated dated August 1, 2021 issued by Senior Superintendent of the concerned jail at Lucknow, recorded that till 1 August, 2021, the applicant had already undergone the period of 17 years and 3 days of imprisonment and therefore sending the applicant back to the Juvenile Board would not be fair and just. 

The Court accordingly, allowed the Miscellaneous Appeal of the applicant and passed an order stating that the applicant should be forthwith set at liberty provided he is not required to be detained under any other order of the competent Court.

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