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  • Onus on juveniles to prove they’re under 18 in case of heinous crimes: SC

    May 13, 2016

    Juvenile justice has been a much debated topic in the country. But little has been done to ensure proper legal mechanism to prosecute such offenders. IN a very critical judgment by the Supreme Court of India, it stated that if, in a heinous crime, the age proof documents presented by the accused (juvenile) is found to be unreliable, then the accused should be tried as an adult instead of a juvenile.

    The ruling came from a bench of Justices A K Sikri and R K Agrawal, which sent Parag Bhati, accused of murdering a man in Greater Noida in 2011, to face trial as an adult. Bhati was found to have forged school documents to show that he was below 18 years at the time of the crime. Such instances of forgery of documents is very common in such cases and also mounts to tampering with potential evidence. The SC, in the past, has not looked at these cases of document forgery with mercy.

    “When the accused commits a grave and heinous offence and thereafter attempts to take statutory shelter under the guise of being a minor, a casual or cavalier approach while recording as to whether an accused is a juvenile or not cannot be permitted as the courts are enjoined upon to perform their duties with the object of protecting the confidence of the common man in the institution, “Justice Agrawal, writing the judgment for the bench, said. Justice Agrawal, writing the judgment for the bench, said if there were documents unambiguously showing that the accused was below the age of 18 years on the date of the crime, he would be entitled to special protection under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

    Doubtful evidence about his age being below 18 years could not come to the rescue of a person involved in a grave and heinous offence committed and given effect to in a well-planned manner, reflecting his maturity of mind rather than innocence, and indicating that plea of juvenility was being used more as a shield to dodge or dupe the arms of the law, the court said.

    The bench upheld the Juvenile Justice Board's decision to send Bhati to face trial for murder as an adult.
     

    OUR TAKE

    The decision of the SC is very rational. The term “juvenile” is often put to shame. It is used as a shield to be protected from the law. People who have committed heinous crimes have been, in the past, released due to age proof documents, mostly forged. Such instances should be looked down upon and strict action should be taken by the Courts in such instances. Many a times, the accused escape the clutches of the law because of this simple but most ignored term. The SC has looked right though the veil and identified the root problem. Only time will tell if the decision really helps in the long run.


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