Ori HC | In case of various conflicting evidence, beneficial approach to be taken in a claim of juvenility as per guiding objective under S. 94 of JJ Act

Orissa High Court: S.K. Panigrahi, J. rejected the appeal under Section 14-A of the SC/ST (Protection Against Atrocities) Act and laid down the guiding principles for determination of age in a claim of juvenility.

The facts of the case are that a minor girl was raped by the appellant on multiple occasions on the pretext of marrying her and impregnated her after which he gave her certain pills to abort the child. When the girl and his family confronted the appellant he fled after which they filed an FIR against him. The appellant is presently charged under Section 376(2)(n)/313/506 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 read with Section-6 of POCSO Act read with Section-3(2)(v)(va) of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The case has come before this court for the determination of age of the victim during the case was registered.

The counsel for the appellant Satyabrata Pradhan, Adhiraj Mohanty, S.S. Dash, M.R. Muduli, M.B. Smrutiranjan, A.K. Samal submitted that the girl was not a minor during the offence was committed and subsequently when the case was registered by relying on her Aadhar card and Aanganwadi register report which are prepared by public servants in the course of their official duty making them cogent and reliable proof of the age of the victim. He also submitted that the girl and the appellant had a love affair and due to which the girl on her own consent when she was a major made relations with the accused and hence the appellant is innocent.

The counsel of the State P.K. Mohanty submitted that the date of birth of the victim as per the school admission register and also the Board Certificate seized by the police both the date of birth coincides to be below 18 years at the time of occurrence giving rise to the complaint. He further contended that Rule-12(3) of Juvenile Justice Rule, 2007 as well as Section 94 and Sub-section 2(i) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 provide the procedure to be followed for determination of age.

The Court relied on the Judgment titled Mukarrab v. State of U.P., (2017) 2 SCC 210 and held that court is inclined to go by the school admission register/ matriculation certificate not only due to leaning of the Apex Court on this issue but also due to the fact that same now raises a presumption in law, albeit rebuttable, by way of a deeming fiction in terms of Section 94 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

In view of the above, issue of minority was found irrelevant and appeal rejected. [Debabrata Sahoo v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 545 , decided on 30-07-2020]

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