School-certificate first reference for deciding minors' age: SC

A bench of justices, comprising P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan said the opinion of a medical board should be sought for ascertaining the age of an individual only when no matriculation or school and birth certificate issued by municipality was available.

The apex court explained the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007, dealing with the procedure to be followed in determination of age.

“The rule categorically envisages that the medical opinion from the medical board should be sought only when the matriculation certificate or school certificate or any birth certificate issued by a corporation or by any panchayat or municipality is not available,” Justice Sathasivam said. The bench put forth the ruling while allowing an appeal of a man (name withdrawn in view of minor), challenging a decision of Allahabad High Court and trial court which had overturned the decision of the Juvenile Justice  Board (JJB) set up under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

The man, an accused in a murder case, moved an application before the JJB, which declared him to be the minor relying on his marksheet issued by school authorities.

The victim’s wife, however, filed an appeal before the trial court which set aside the decision of the JJB. The accused, on his part, moved the High Court which dismissed his plea. His date of birth in the marksheet was mentioned as June 18, 1989, while the FIR in the case was registered on June 4, 2007. Thus, his age at the time of incident was 17 years, 11 months and 17 days.

“We are of the view that though the Board has correctly accepted the entry relating to the date of birth in the marksheet and school certificate, the Additional Sessions Judge and the High Court committed a grave error in determining the age of the appellant ignoring the date of birth mentioned in those documents which is illegal, erroneous and contrary to the Rules,” the court said.

“We are satisfied that the entry relating to date of birth entered in the marksheet is one of the valid proof of evidence for determination of age of an accused person.

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