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Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Sanjeev Sachdeva, J., allowed a criminal revision petition filed against the order of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) as affirmed by the appellate court whereby the victim girl, in this case, was held to be a minor.

The petitioners were the employer of the victim and were accused in the FIR registered under Sections 325 and 376 IPC along with Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 read with Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. The matter arose out of an issue before the CWC pertaining to wages to the victim. Since there was no document available to determine the age of the victim, a bone ossification test was conducted wherein her age was estimated to be in the range of 17-19 years. By the order impugned, the CWC determined victim’s age as 17 years; which order was affirmed by the appellate court. Aggrieved thus, the petitioners filed the instant revision.

Referring to Ram Suresh Singh v. Prabhat Singh, (2009) 6 SCC 681 and Jyoti Prakash Rai v. State of Bihar, (2008) 15 SCC 223, the High Court observed that the ossification test is not conclusive for age determination. The margin of error in age ascertained by radiological examination is two years on either side. The question that arose for consideration before the Court was ‘whether, while determining the age of the victim, the benefit of doubt in the age estimated by bone ossification test, is to go to the accused or the victim?’ Further referring to Triveniben v. State of Gujarat, (1989) 1 SCC 678 and Maru Ram v. Union of India, (1981) 1 SCC 107, the Court observed that any benefit of doubt, other things being equal, at all stages goes in favour of the accused. In the facts of the present case where age was estimated to be in between 17-19 years, the High Court held that even without considering the margin of error, the age is to be determined at 19 years. And as such, the order of the CWC holding the victim to be a minor was unsustainable. Accordingly, the order impugned, as far as it related to the determination of victim’s age, was set aside. However, the order of payment of wages and childhood loss compensation was not interfered with. The petition was disposed of in the terms above. [Shweta Gulati v. State (NCT of Delhi),2018 SCC OnLine Del 10448, dated 08-08-2018]