A man, who was serving life imprisonment in a murder case and has been found to be a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence in 2004, got the relief on Wednesday from the Supreme Court which directed that he be forthwith set at liberty as it would be now "unjust" to send him to the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB).
While noting that the man has undergone the sentence for over 17 years, the Supreme Court observed that after holding an inquiry, the JJB of district Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh had passed an order last month as per which the man was a juvenile at the time of the commission of the offence in January 2004.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and AS Oka delivered its verdict on an application filed by the man who had contended that he was a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence.
The Supreme Court noted that in view of the categorical finding recorded by the competent JJB and as per the provision of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Act) 2000, the applicant is required to be forwarded to the JJB.
It said under section 15 of the 2000 Act, the "most stringent action" which could have been taken against the applicant was of sending him to a special home for three years.
"The certificate dated August 1, 2021, issued by the senior superintendent of the concerned jail at Lucknow, records that till August 1, 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," the bench said.
"Therefore, we allow the application and direct that the applicant...shall be forthwith set at liberty provided he is not required to be detained under any other order of the competent court," it said.
The bench noted that the man was convicted by a sessions court in May 2006 for the offence of murder under the Indian Penal Code and was sentenced to undergo life imprisonment.
It also noted that appeals preferred by him and other accused before the Allahabad High Court were dismissed.
The bench observed that the Supreme Court had in August 2009 dismissed the plea filed against the high court verdict so far as the man was concerned.
The man had filed an application claiming that he was a juvenile on the date of the commission of the offence by relying upon various documents like high school results.
The Supreme Court had on January 31 this year directed the JJB to hold an inquiry into the claim of the applicant.
In its verdict, the bench noted that oral and documentary evidence was adduced before the JJB during the course of the inquiry, and after considering the documentary evidence on record, the Board has held that the correct date of birth of the man is May 16, 1986, as per which he was a minor on the date of commission of the offence.
"This order has not been challenged by the State and is allowed to become final," the bench noted.
It said that when the offence was committed, the provisions of the 2000 Act were in force, and as per that Act, only the JJB constituted under section 4 had the jurisdiction to try a juvenile in conflict with the law.
The Supreme Court said that under section 7A of the Act, an accused was entitled to raise the claim of juvenility before any court even after the final disposal of the case.
It noted that as per the provision of the 2000 Act, if after holding an inquiry, the court found the accused to be a juvenile on the date of commission of offence, the court was under a mandate to forward the minor to the JJB for passing appropriate orders and in such a case, the sentence passed by a criminal court shall be deemed to have no effect.
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