Madhya Pradesh High Court: Satyendra Kumar Singh, J. in a recent case affirmed that Trial Court does not have power to determine the age of the applicant and this power is vested only with the JJ Board. This petition was filed against the order passed by Additional Special Judge whereby application was filed u/Section 94 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 [the Act of 2015] requesting to refer the matter to Juvenile Justice Board for determination of applicant’s age was rejected.
Applicant alongwith other co-accused persons was facing criminal trial for the offences punishable u/Section 8C/15 of NDPS Act. After filing of charge-sheet till framing of charges, applicant was not represented by any one and on 17-05-2020, his counsel filed vakalatnama and found applicant’s age below 18 years. Hence, on 18-05-2020, counsel for the applicant moved an application u/Section 94 of the Act of 2015 by which prayer is made for referring the matter to Juvenile Justice Board for determination of his age as well as for his trial.
The Trial Court had directed the respondent to verify the documents filed by the applicant in support of his aforesaid application and after receiving the verification report on 28-05-2021 rejected applicant’s application on the ground that school scholar register entry with regard to date of birth of the applicant is doubtful and secondly, as per date of birth entry of his Aadhar Card, his date of birth is 24-03-2000 and as per the said date of birth, applicant was major at the time of incident.
Counsel for the applicant submitted that trial Court had committed an error of law while not taking into consideration the application filed by the applicant u/S 94 of the Act of 2015. He further submitted that exclusive jurisdiction for determination of the age of applicant lies with the Juvenile Justice Board constituted under the Act of 2015.
The Court explained that u/Section 94 of the Act of 2015, the presumption is raised that when a person is brought before the Juvenile Justice Board (‘JJ Board') or the Child Welfare Committee (‘Committee') and the said person is a child as nearly as may be and proceed to inquiry u/Section 14 or Section 36 as the case may be, without waiting for further confirmation of the age. But where the said Board or the Committee had reasonable grounds for doubt regarding whether the person brought before it is a child or not, the JJ Board or the Committee must undertake the process of age determination by seeking evidence.
The Court relying on Sanjay Kumar Gupta v. State of U.P., 2019 (12) SCC 370, Rishipal Singh Solanki v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2021 SCC Oline SC 1079 concluded that Trial Court did not have power to determine the age of the applicant and this power is vested only with the JJ Board constituted under the Act of 2015.
The petition was allowed setting aside the impugned order stating that it was not in consonance with the provisions of the Act, of 2015. The matter was remanded back to the Trial Court.
[Shriram Rawat v. State of Madhya Pradesh, Criminal Revision No. 1439 of 2021, decided on 17-08-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
R.R. Trivedi, Advocate, for the Petitioner;
Shashwat Seth, Advocate, for the Respondent.
*Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.