Recently a Division Bench of Supreme Court comprising Hon’ble Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Hon’ble Justice Sanjiv Khanna decided the issue of taking determining plea of juvenility at different stages of proceedings.
Brief facts of Satya Deo Versus State Of Uttar Pradesh are as follows
The petitioner was convicted of charges under Section 302 r/w Section 304 of the IPC. The petitioner claimed that he was a juvenile when the crime occurred.
The trial court was directed to ascertain if the petitioner was a juvenile or not. As per the report of the trial court, based on the school transfer certificate it was confirmed that the petitioner was 16 years seven months and 26 days of age on the day when the crime took place.
The Sessions Judge Bahrraich was of the opinion that as per Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, the petitioner was not a juvenile because he was more than 16 years old on the date of the crime (11.12.1981).
Thereafter the matter went before the Allahabad High Court at Lucknow in appeal, which affirmed the Order of Sessions Judge
Feeling aggrieved an SLP was filed before the Supreme Court.
Issue Before the Supreme Court
The issue before the Court was which definition of Juvenile should be considered in the instant case because as per the Juvenile Justice Act 1986 it is 16 years and as per the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 the age is 18.
The reasoning of the Court
Hon’ble Court made a reference to Pratap Singh v. State of Jharkhand and Another where it was held that the provision of 2000, Act will be applicable in a pending proceeding as per 1986 Act if the person has not completed the age of 18 years on 01.04.2001.
The Court referred to various cases where this issue was examined:-
In this case application of 2000, Act was examined in cases where the crime was committed before the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, and the person was below 18 years of age. The Court held that the claim of juvenility can be raised before any court and should be recognised at any stage of the trial. The disposal and sentencing should be considered as per the Juvenile Justice Act 2000, even if the person was over the age of 18 years when the Juvenile Justice Act was enforced. The only caveat is that the person should not be over the age of 18 years when the alleged crime took place.
In this case, the effect of Section 20 of the 2000 Act and its interplay with the 1986 Act were examined. The Court had observed that Section 20 deals with special provisions in respect of pending cases. It was observed that the proceedings of a pending case must be conducted as per the new provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act 2000.
Hon’ble Court observed that the courts should try the cases as per the provisions of the new 2000, Act even if the Juvenile was over the age of 18 on 1.04.2001 when 2000, Act came into force. It was further observed that section 20 of the Juvenile Justice ACT,2000 enables the Court to consider and determine the juvenility of a person, even after conviction by the regular Court and also empowers the Court to set aside the sentence imposed and forward the case to the Juvenile Justice Board concerned for passing sentence in accordance with the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000
The Supreme Court observed that explanation added to Section 20 vide Act 33 of 2006, which again is of significant importance, states that the court where ‘the proceedings’ are pending ‘at any stage’ shall determine the question of juvenility of the accused. The expression ‘all pending cases’ includes not only trial but even subsequent proceedings by way of appeal, revision etc. or any other criminal proceedings.
Further the Court held that in respect of pending cases, Section 20 authoritatively commands that the court must at any stage, even post the judgment by the trial court when the matter is pending in appeal, revision or otherwise, consider and decide upon the question of juvenility. Juvenility is determined by the age on the date of commission of the offence. The factum that the juvenile was an adult on the date of enforcement of the 2000 Act or subsequently had attained adulthood would not matter
Decision of the Supreme Court
The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that in light of the legal position discussed in the case, the Court has the power to decide and determine the juvenility of the petitioner, even if he was not considered a juvenile as per the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986.
Further the Court held that because the petitioner was under the age of eighteen years on the date of commission of the offence, he should be given the benefit of provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.
Hon’ble Supreme Court also observed that even though they are upholding the conviction of the petitioner, the sentence of life imprisonment was set aside because the trial court had not tried him as the Juvenile Justice Act,2000
The case was directed to be heard by the Juvenile Justice Board for further orders/ directions and determination of sentence.
Title:- Satya Deo Versus State Of Uttar Pradesh
Case No.CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 860 OF 2019
Date of Order:07.10.2020
Coram: Hon’ble Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Hon’ble Justice Sanjiv Khanna