Man to appear before Juvenile Board 25 years after killing wife

Better late than never

Man to appear before Juvenile Board 25 years after killing wife

The Supreme Court has convicted and asked a man to face the Juvenile Justice Board, 25 years after killing his wife for dowry, after noting that he was a minor at the time of the offence.

The 40-year-old convict from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh was able to convince a bench of justices Madan B Lokur and T S Thakur that he was four to five years younger to his wife Asha Devi, on May 23, 1988, when she was set on fire.

The court agreed with his plea after a sessions judge conducted an inquiry at its direction and gave a favourable report. The plea of juvenility was raised in the Supreme Court in 2010 during a hearing on his appeal against the Allahabad High Court order upholding his conviction and a seven-year sentence for dowry death.

In his plea, the man contended that his date of birth was August 31, 1974. Therefore, when the offence was allegedly committed, he was about 14.

The record showed that Asha Devi died at 19, after being married for about four and a half years. Thus, the appellant was around nine when he was married to Asha Devi and around 14 on the day of her death.

“At the time of offence, the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, was in force. Therefore, only punishments not greater than those postulated by the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, ought to be awarded to him. This is the requirement of Article 20(1) of the Constitution. The only realistic punishment that can possibly be awarded to the appellant on the facts of this case is to require him to pay a fine under clause (e) of Section 21(1) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986,” Justice Lokur said.

The court said the correct course of action would be to remand the matter to the jurisdictional Juvenile Justice Board constituted under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, for determining the appropriate quantum of fine. Besides, a compensation could be awarded to the family of Asha Devi.

The bench, however, decided against setting aside his conviction and holding the trial against him as vitiated since the appellant did not challenge his conviction.

The court decided to grant him the benefit of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, as Parliament, by enacting the law, provided that all cases pending would be tried in regular courts, but no sentence would be pronounced. Instead, the matter would be sent to the Juvenile Board for punishment if the convict was a minor, Justice Thakur, writing separate but concurring verdict, said.
DH News Service

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