The Supreme Court on Thursday held that the crime of accused, who was four days short of turning 18 when he was driving his father's Mercedes Benz and killed a young man in Delhi in 2016, will not be treated as heinous but "serious" and he should be tried as a child under juvenile law and not as an adult in a court of law.
A Bench of Justice Deepak Gupta in a judgement said that the accused will be treated as a juvenile and not as an adult and his crime will be treated as serious.
The top court had to decide on a question whether an offence prescribing a maximum sentence of more than 7 years imprisonment but not providing any minimum sentence, or providing a minimum sentence of less than 7 years, can be considered to be a ''heinous offence'' within the meaning of Section 2(33) of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
In the present case, the juvenile alleged to have committed the offence punishable under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC ) for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
The offence is punishable with a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life or up to 10 years and fine in the first part and imprisonment up to 10 years or fine, or both in the second part and no minimum sentence is prescribed.
Justice Gupta said the alleged crime cannot fall under the category of heinous offence under the Juvenile Justice Act. Juvenile Justice Act lays down that a juvenile can be tried as an adult only in cases of heinous offences where the minimum punishment is seven years in jail.
On June 4, 2016 the juvenile board had held that the juvenile has committed a heinous offence, and, therefore should be tried as an adult.
The order was challenged before the Delhi High Court, which on May 1, 2019 decided against it and held that since no minimum sentence is prescribed for the offence in question, the offence did not fall within the ambit of Section 2(33) (which defines heinous offences) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
The sister of the victim, 32-year-old marketing executive Siddharth Sharma, had challenged the High Court order in the Supreme Court.
Deciding the issue, the top court held that an offence which does not provide a minimum sentence of 7 years cannot be treated to be a heinous offence.
"The Act does not deal with the 4th category of offences viz., offence where the maximum sentence is more than 7 years imprisonment, but no minimum sentence or minimum sentence of less than 7 years is provided, shall be treated as ''serious offences'' within the meaning of the Act and dealt with accordingly till the Parliament takes the call on the matter," said the bench in its judgement.
The Delhi police had termed the accused as a ''perpetual defaulter'', as he had been fined thrice - twice for speeding and once for parking wrongly.
The police also charge sheeted the juvenile's father and the family driver in this case. The accused allegedly ran over Sharma with his Mercedes in north Delhi's Civil Lines area on April 4, 2016.