Twenty years after the Murder, Accused held to be Juvenile by SC, acquitted
News

Twenty years after the Murder, Accused held to be Juvenile by SC, acquitted

Murali Krishnan

The Supreme Court today acquitted a person in a murder case on the ground that he was a juvenile at the time of commission of the offence.

A Bench of Justices Abhay Manohar Sapre and Dinesh Maheshwari held that since the accused was a juvenile, there was no need to go into the merits of the case. The Court placed reliance on the judgment in Raju vs. The State of Haryana [2019(4) SCALE 398] wherein a similar question was involved.

“…we are of the considered opinion that since appellant No.2 was a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence and though till date he has already undergone considerable jail sentence partly as an under­trial and partly as a convict, yet the appeal filed by appellant No. 2 has to be allowed as was done in the case of Raju (supra) without going into the merits of the case.”

The judgment was passed in an appeal filed by two accused, a father-son duo who had been accused of murder.

The sessions court had acquitted them but the Punjab & Haryana High Court overturned the same in appeal and convicted them prompting the appeal in Supreme Court.

During the pendency of the appeal, one of the accused, the father passed away, Hence, the appeal filed by him was dismissed as abated.

The appeal by the son, Sukhwant Kumar came to be considered by the Court.

During the hearing, the appellant’s counsel brought to the notice of the court that the Sukhwant Kumar was a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence.

The Court noted that Kumar was born on June 14, 1980 and the offence was committed on January 4, 1998. Thus, Kumar was 17 years and 5 months old on the date of commission of the offence. Thus, he had not attained 18 years of age when the crime was committed.

“It is, therefore, an admitted fact that appellant No. 2 was a juvenile (he was below the age of 18 years, i.e., he was 17 years and 5 months) on the date of the commission of the offence (04.01.1998). In  other words, appellant No. 2 had not completed the age of 18 years on the date of commission of the offence, i.e., on 04.01.1998.”

Interestingly, the Court also noted that the fact that the accused was a juvenile was not brought to the notice of the Sessions judge or the High Court. It was first brought to the notice of the Supreme Court in the current appeal.

“…this fact was neither brought to the notice of the Sessions Judge and nor the High Court and was brought to the notice of this Court for the first time by appellant No. 2 in this appeal, yet in the light of law laid down by this Court in several decisions referred to in Para 10 of the decision in Raju (supra), appellant No. 2 is entitled to raise this plea even in this appeal.”

Regarding the genuineness of the birth certificate, the Court observed that the appellant had filed his date of birth certificate in the Sessions Court. The prosecution did not object to the correctness of the birth certificate before the Sessions Judge. Further, the Supreme Court had granted bail to the appellant in 2011 on the ground that he was a juvenile at the time of commission of the offence and the same was not disputed by the State.

Moreover, even at the time of hearing the appeal, the State did not dispute the date of birth certificate of the appellant, the Court noted.

Hence, it allowed the appeal filed by the appellant without going into the merits of the case.

“In view of the foregoing discussion, we are of the considered opinion that since appellant No.2 was a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence and though till date he has already undergone considerable jail sentence partly as an under­trial and partly as a convict, yet the appeal filed by  appellant No. 2 has to be allowed as was done in the case of Raju (supra) without going into the merits   of the case and passing any other consequential order in that regard.”

Senior Counsel TS Doabia appeared for the appellants while advocates Ankit Swarup and Jaspreet Gogia represented the respondents.

Read the judgment below.

Juvenile-acquitted-of-murder-by-Supreme-Court.pdf
Preview
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news
www.barandbench.com