Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Allahabad HC dismisses plea challenging lower court order

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The Allahabad High Court has dismissed a petition observing that the lower court cannot be faulted for depending upon the medical/ radiological age of the juvenile and declaring him as an adult on the basis of the evidence available in the facts and circumstance of the case.

A single-judge bench of Justice Jyotsna Sharma passed this order while hearing a criminal revision filed by Kalim.

The criminal revision has been filed under Section 102 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 with a prayer to set aside the order of the Juvenile Justice Board dated 26.03.2021 passed in age determination inquiry in Misc Application arising out of Crime under Sections 302, 120-B IPC, Police Station Hasanpur, District Amroha (JP Nagar) with a further prayer to set aside the order passed in criminal appeal affirming the order of the Juvenile Justice Board and to declare the revisionist a juvenile under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

The submission of the revisionist are that the courts below have committed a manifest error of law in passing the impugned orders; in the school certificate the date of birth was shown as 10.08.2006, which clearly established the age of the revisionist as 14 years and 12 days on the date of the occurrence; the courts below ignored the school certificate thereby flouting the provisions of law; the school certificate was proved by the evidence of the teacher of the concerned primary school and by the Ex-Principal of the same institution examined witnesses; the courts below instead of relying upon the original and the documentary evidence took into consideration the report of the Medical Board and disbelieved the date of birth, as shown in the certificate; the impugned order is illegal because it is founded on the fact that the copy of the pariwar register was not produced by the revisionist at the right time; at the same time, the age of the juvenile, as shown in the driving licence was accepted against the provisions of law, hence, the impugned orders are liable to be set aside and the revisionist deserves to be declared a juvenile.

The Court noted,

The revisionist has relied on Ajay Kumar Singh @ Babloo Singh vs State of UP and Uday Pratap Singh; 2022 (6) ADJ 85 (LB), wherein the Court observed that the matriculation certificate was available, therefore, there was no occasion to have gone for other documents, such as birth certificate issued by the local bodies.

In the above case before the court, the arguments of the revisionist that the Juvenile Justice Board should have gone for ossification test, was discarded as misconceived in the light of specific provisions given in clause (iii) of Section 94 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 which said that only in the absence of document mentioned in clause (i) and (ii), age shall be determined by an ossification test.

The Court discarded the plea that the original document of the school first attended should have been summoned and held that the court below rightly determined the age of the juvenile on the basis of the matriculation certificate and it was opined that unless some documentary proof or evidence is produced before the Board or the lower appellate court, which may negate the correctness of the high school certificate, the order cannot be faulted.

The Court kept in mind the facts and circumstances attached to production of documents/certificates, as required by the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act before those documents could be relied upon. In other words, it appears that the opinion largely is that even if the documents are found to be prima facie correct, there may be facts and circumstances to alert the Court to go into the inquiry to satisfy itself as to correctness of the claim.

The Court, referring to the fact that there was no other document contradicting the date of birth as shown in the matriculation certificate, held that the medical evidence is not required and upheld the order of the High Court which sustained the judgment of the Sessions Court as well as the Juvenile Justice Board.

The Court further noted,

Coming to the facts of the matter admittedly, the school leaving certificate, wherein the date of birth was shown as 10.08.2006, issued on 25.11.2020 by the Primary School, Bawan Kheri, Thana-Hasanpur, Amroha was produced, however, the authenticity and the acceptability of that certificate was challenged by the respondent-informant by producing a copy of pariwar register showing date of birth of juvenile as of the year 1999 as well as a driving licence showing the same year of birth. Thereafter, in rebuttal another copy of pariwar register was produced on behalf of the juvenile showing his date of birth as 10.08.2006.

In the above circumstances, an inquiry into the age determination was directed and several witnesses were examined. Father of the juvenile admitted that he knows about the date of birth of his son only on the basis of entry in the school leaving certificate and that he does not remember his exact date of birth. Mariyam, Principal of the school, though, verified the fact that the transfer certificate was issued by the school and also produced the S.R register, the attendance register etc, however, she stated that she was unaware of the basis of entry of date of birth as 10.08.2006 and the reasons for juvenile’s admission in that institution in Class II.

The ex-principal of that school stated that at the time of his admission, he recorded the age of the juvenile and the date of birth as 10.08.2006 as told by his elder brother, the only person who accompanied the juvenile at the time of his admission. Admittedly, the admission register was never produced. The medical examination and the X-ray of the juvenile indicated that his radiological age was about 19 years. The radiologist, namely Dr Kuldeep Singh, found that the bones of wrist, elbow, knees and clavicle were all fused.

The Court observed that,

From the perusal of the impugned order, it appears that finding the school leaving certificate quite doubtful and finding that there was no underlying document to record his age at the time of admission in the concerned institution coupled with the facts that other documents like copy of pariwar register and driving licence showed different age of the juvenile, in my view, the Juvenile Justice Board and the learned Appellate Court below rightly embarked on an inquiry and radiological age was ordered to be conducted.

The courts below cannot be faulted for depending upon the medical/radiological age of the juvenile and declaring him as an adult on the basis of the evidence available in the facts and circumstance of the case.

Before the Court, copy of bail order passed in Bail Application dated 15.01.2022 passed by the Incharge, Sessions Judge, Amroha and copy of the order passed by the Court on 24.05.2022 in Criminal Misc Bail Application moved on behalf of the revisionist, who claim himself to be a juvenile, has been brought on record. In the bail application moved before the Sessions Judge, the applicant-revisionist has shown his age as 19 years, which goes against his own claim.

“In my view, there were enough reasons to discard the documented age of the juvenile and to call for ossification test, the Board was perfectly justified in seeking evidence for determination of age and drawing its own conclusion based on the evidence available including evidence of radiological test. The Board as well as appellate court both have given a concurrent finding which is not liable to be disturbed by this Court while exercising revisional powers under Section 102 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, therefore, I do not find any illegality or impropriety in the impugned order,” the Court further observed while dismissing the petition.

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