'No bar on entertaining plea for juvenility'

 An accused can raise the question of him being juvenile at the time of the offence, at any stage of the trial and appeal, the Supreme Court has held.

In a significant verdict, a three judge bench headed by Justice R M Lodha said the claim by an accused, to declare him or her a juvenile, can be raised for the first time in an appeal against a trial court order and also before the apex court, even if it was never pointed out in the lower court and the High Court.

The plea can even be made after the case has been disposed of, the court added.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, provides different ways of treating juvenile delinquents as it recommends that such accused should be kept at observation homes, instead of sentencing them to jail terms.

“A claim of juvenility may be raised at any stage even after final disposal of the case. It may be raised for the first time before this Court as well after final disposal of the case. The delay in raising the claim of juvenility cannot be a ground for rejection of such claim,” the apex court said.

“The court where the plea of juvenility is raised for the first time should always be guided by the objectives of the 2000 Act and be alive to the position that the beneficent and salutary provisions contained in the Act are not defeated by hyper-technical approach and the persons who are entitled to get benefits of the Act, get such benefits,” the court added.

The bench, also comprising justices T S Thakur and A R Dave, settled the legal position as two co-ordinate benches had differed on the issue.

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