The Supreme Court noted that the longest possible duration for a juvenile’s imprisonment sentence is three years.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ordered the release of a man who has already served over 12 years in jail after being awarded a life sentence in a murder case, holding that he was a juvenile when the offence was committed in 2005.
A bench headed by Justice B R Gavai referred to a May 2023 report of an additional sessions judge, who was asked to conduct an inquiry with regard to the plea of juvenility raised by the man, which said his date of birth was May 2, 1989.
“If the date of birth of the petitioner is May 2, 1989, he was 16 years and seven months old as of the date of the crime, i.e., December 21, 2005. Accordingly, the petitioner was a juvenile in conflict with the law on the date of commission of the offence,” the bench, also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and Sanjay Kumar, said in an order passed on September 5.
The Supreme Court delivered its order on a plea filed by the petitioner seeking verification of his claim of juvenility and consequential orders as per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
According to the provisions of the 2000 Act, the maximum period for which the petitioner could have been in custody is three years.
“However, as the plea of juvenility was raised for the first time in the present writ petition (filed in 2022) before us, the process of criminal law, which commenced in 2005, led to the petitioner being convicted and sentenced for life imprisonment concurrently by the trial court, the high court, as well as the Supreme Court,” the bench said.
It said the petitioner has spent over 12 years in jail.
“Having accepted the report of the II Additional Sessions Judge, Khammam, the petitioner can no longer be incarcerated. In view of the above, we allow the writ petition and direct that the petitioner be released forthwith if he is not required to be detained in any other case,” the bench said.
The Supreme Court noted that it is well settled that the question of juvenility can be raised before any court and at any stage, as prescribed under Section 7A(1) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, and confirmed by judicial precedents.
It said the petitioner was arrayed as an accused along with others in the case, and a trial court had in December 2009 convicted him and others and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
The Supreme Court noted the high court, and later the top court affirmed his conviction and sentence.
It was also noted that two months after the Supreme Court passed the order in July 2022, the petitioner filed a petition seeking a direction to the state to verify his claim of juvenility.
The bench said the state had filed an affidavit stating that the petitioner had studied at a school in Andhra Pradesh from 1st to 3rd standard and that his date of birth was May 2, 1989.
“Since the juvenility was based on the petitioner’s school documents, this court considered it appropriate to direct the Additional Sessions Judge (Fast Track Court), Khammam, Andhra Pradesh, to conduct an inquiry with regard to the plea of juvenility raised by the petitioner,” it said.
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