SC accepts Registrar’s inquiry over HC’s findings

SC accepts Registrar’s inquiry over HC’s findings

The Supreme Court has set aside conviction and 10-year jail term given to a man for gang rape, giving precedence to an inquiry report by its own Registrar (Judicial) over the High Court's judgement, which had rejected his claim of being juvenile at the time of offence.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee relied upon Section 7A of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and Rule 12 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007, which entitled the accused to raise the plea of juvenility and mandated the court to conduct an inquiry.

The appellant from Gurugram, held guilty along with two others, challenged his conviction and sentence before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, contending, among others, that he was less than 18 years of age at the time of offence in 2000. He furnished the school certificate to bolster his claim.

The top court noted that the high court did not frame any issue on it and simply rejected it saying the evidence did not go to show that the appellant was a juvenile.

Finding the document furnished as sufficient to order inquiry, the bench assigned the task to its Registrar (Judicial), a district judge serving on deputation in the Supreme Court.

The question raised before the top court was if it can give precedence to the inquiry report of Registrar (Judicial) over to the high court's opinion on age of the appellant.

Giving its ruling, the top court said, "Such inquiry conducted by the Registrar (Judicial) upon the direction of this court, if thereafter affirmed by this court, would amount to an inquiry conducted by this court itself."

The court finally lent credence to the inquiry which proved veracity of the certificate furnished by the appellant, showing him to be of 16 years two month and two days old at the time of offence.

It ordered release of the appellant, also noting that he has already spent six years in imprisonment, whereas the maximum period for which a juvenile may be sent to a special home is only three years as per Section 15(1)(g) of the 2000 Act.