The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned its hearing for want of an original document in a plea of juvenility raised by a man convicted and sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment in a gangrape case, after more than of 17 years of incarceration.
A two-Judge bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and B.V. Nagarathna asked him why didn’t he raise the claim of juvenility earlier. To which, the Counsel appearing for the convict submitted that the birth certificate he is relying upon was issued on the recommendation of Gram Panchayat.
Justice Chandrachud inquired as to when the Gram Panchayat has recommended this document.
The Counsel replied that he will check and submit before the Court.
“Until and unless you file the original document, we cannot hear the matter,” the bench said. The Court thereafter adjourned its hearing.
The petition was filed by Sher Khan, seeking directions to issue writ of Mandamus against the state of Uttar Pradesh in view of the earlier judgments passed by the court in a similar set of cases, wherein the Court has considered the plea of juvenility at later stages and granted relief to persons languishing in jail since decades.
The plea raised two important questions of law as to (A) whether an accused can raise a plea of juvenility at any stage before any court after final disposal of a case and if such a plea is permissible then are the courts competent enough to order an enquiry so as to ascertain the juvenility of the said accused and consequently pass such necessary orders as it deems fit in the fact and circumstances of the case? (B) Whether the ratio in the judgment passed in “Abuzar Hussain Vs The State of West Bengal, 2012 (10) SCC 489” is fully applicable in the facts and circumstances of the case?
The petitioner submitted that he was born on March 10, 1984, citing two documents in his plea to prove that he was minor at the time of the commission of offence – 15 years of age on July 4, 1999. Firstly, he is relying upon a date of birth certificate issued by the Department of Medical and Health, state of Uttar Pradesh. Secondly, the school leaving certificate, which was issued on May 16, 2018, which has categorically mentioned that he had enrolled as student in the said school on July 20, 1990 and had passed out on May 30, 1995 from Class V. Thereafter, he hasn’t studied further.
The petitioner had previously filed an appeal before the Allahabad High Court against conviction under Section 376(2)(g) of Indian Penal Code and order of sentence (Rigorous Life Imprisonment) passed by the trial court, but the same was dismissed. The SLP preferred against the same was dismissed too by the Apex Court, but the claim of juvenility was never raised at any of the stages during the proceedings.
In his plea, raising the claim of Juvenility, the petitioner submitted that the Apex Court, in a number of orders and judgments, held “a claim of juvenility may be raised at any stage even after the final disposal of the case. It may be raised for the first time before this Court as well after the final disposal of the case. The delay in raising the claim of juvenility cannot be a ground for rejection of such claim. The claim of juvenility can be raised in appeal, even if not pressed before the Trial Court and can be raised for the first time before this Court, though not pressed before the Trial Court and the Appeal Court.”
The said decision was rendered by a three-Judge bench in “Abuzar Hussain vs The State of West Bengal.”