Court to decide whether a man of 40 years of age can be tried afresh as a Juvenile in a murder case

Supreme Court: In a matter before the Court which is one of its kind, the bench of Dipak Mishra and U.U. Lalit JJ., has sought for the assistance of the Attorney General of India on a peculiar question as to whether a 40 year old man, convicted in a murder case, can be tried afresh as a juvenile for the offence which he committed when he was of 16 years age.

The matter came before the Court in an appeal raised by an Uttrakhand resident that he should be tried as a juvenile for a murder case registered against him 24 years ago. The Counsel for the appellant K.T.S Tulsi contended that there is no doubt that the accused, now aged 40 years of age, was a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence. The Counsel further contended that as per Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000,  when the Board is satisfied that the offence has been committed by a Juvenile, it may allow the Juvenile to go home after advice/admonition and counseling of the parents/guardian and the juvenile OR order the juvenile to perform community service OR direct the juvenile to be released on probation of good conduct and placed under the care of any parent, guardian or any other fit person/ institution for good behavior and well being of the Juvenile OR direct the juvenile to be sent to a special home. 

The Counsel for the State, Tanmaya Agarwal, contended that if a man of 40 or 45 years is sent for a punishment under Section 15 of the Act, it would be an exercise in futility, and a travesty of justice. If he is sent to a Special Home or Observation Home by the Juvenile Board, he would be absolutely misfit there because the Observation Homes are meant for young juveniles in praesenti. On which the Counsel for the appellant contended that when we go by the letter and the spirit of Section 7A of the Act, it makes clear that the claim of Juvenility may be raised before any Court and at any stage, even after final disposal of the case or even if the juvenile has seized to be so. Therefore the appellant as being a Juvenile on the date of commission of the offence shall be forwarded to the Juvenile Justice Board for passing appropriate order, and the sentence passed by the Court against him shall be deemed to have no effect and the trial against him should be vitiated and it should be sent for denovo trial before the Board.

Seeing the anomaly of the situation the Court directed for the Suggestion of the Attorney General in the matter and also directed him to address on whether the “issue of juvenility” can be agitated at “any stage of the proceedings”. Mumtaz v. State of U.P. (Now Uttarakhand), 2014 SCC OnLine SC 918 decided on November 19, 2014 

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