Monday, March 4, 2024

Supreme Court releases murder convict for undergoing 17 years of jail

A Division bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Khanwilkar released a man on the ground that he was a Juvenile at the time of commission of the offence of murder and has already undergone 17 years and three days in prison after his conviction for the said crime.  

The petitioner has claimed that he was a juvenile on the date of the incident based on various papers such as High School results released by the Board of High School and Intermediate Education, Uttar Pradesh and therefore filed a Miscellaneous Application in 2021 contending that the date of his birth is 16th May 1986.

This Court, by order dated January 31, 2022, directed the District Maharajganj Juvenile Justice Board to investigate the applicant’s claim that he was a juvenile at the time of the offence. The board confirmed that on the date of commission of the offence, his age was 17 years 07 months and 23 days. 

The Supreme Court has noted,

“When the offence was committed, the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 (‘the 2000 Act’) were in force. As per the 2000 Act, only the Juvenile Justice Board constituted under Section 4 thereof had jurisdiction to try a juvenile in conflict with the law. 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.”

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The Court further noted that Under Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000, the most stringent action which could have been taken against the applicant, was of sending the applicant to a special home for a period of three years. But since he has already undergone more than 17 years of sentence, now it will be unjust to send the applicant to the Juvenile Justice Board.

Therefore, the Supreme Court directed,

“the applicant – Sanjay Patel, accused no.2 in Sessions Trial No.28 of 2004 decided by the learned Sessions Judge, Maharajganj – shall be forthwith set at liberty provided he is not required to be detained under any other order of the competent Court”.

Sanjay was involved in the murder of victim-Shailesh which was committed on 8.01.2004. he was accused of stabbing the victim in his stomach with a krich (Gupti) weapon causing fatal injury which resulted in his death. 

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Subsequently he was convicted by the Sessions Court on 16th May 2006 for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to undergo life imprisonment. The petitioner had then approached the High Court of Allahabad by way of an appeal and it was argued before the Court that the injury caused to the deceased was a single injury therefore the nature of offence should be 304 Part-I or 304 Part-II, IPC. The High Court rejected this argument and observed that the act of the petitioner was instrumental in causing fatal injury to the deceased. Moreover, the injury caused was of such a great magnitude that his intestines came out. Finally the High Court held that the nature of the injury was sufficient to cause the death in ordinary course and further termed it as “cold blooded murder”. In this manner the appeal was dismissed by the Court. The petitioner then moved to the Supreme Court in 2009 by way of an appeal which was also rejected by affirming the decision of the Trial Court as well as the High Court. 

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