DATE OF JUDEMENT
18 November, 2021
Appellant-Rishipal Singh Solanki
Respondent- State of U.P. &Ors.
The age of the person brought before them as documented by the juvenile justice board or the child welfare committee shall be deemed the genuine age of the person.This presumption of age is done under Section 94 of the JJ Act.
Section 94(3) of the JJ Act lays down the provisions for Presumption and determination of age it says that age recorded by the Committee or the Board of the person brought before then will be the true age of that person.
The appellant approached Supreme Court challenging the order passed by the principal magistrate, Juvenile Justice board, Baghpat which declared respondent no. 2 as a juvenile delinquent.
The counsel for appellant contended that respondent no. 2 has been accused of committing grave offences along with the other co-accused, and that declaring him juvenile is an erroneous decision.
It was argued that the JJ Board misunderstood the legislative intent behind section 94 of the JJ Act, 2015 when it declared that a matriculation certificate is a conclusive document for determining a juvenile's age despite material discrepancies in the witnesses' oral testimony or other documents produced.
As a result, it was contended that the age stated on the matriculation certificate cannot be accepted at face value if other information contradicts it. The learned additional Advocate General for the State of Uttar Pradesh backed up this contention. He asserted that the exhibits could not have been signed by Nishant, hence these documents could not be taken at face value. They also don't match the age of respondent 2 at the time he started and finished high school.
Whether matriculation certificate is enough to determine the age of the respondent 2 and pronounce him a juvenile?
The court held that “The age recorded by the Committee or the Board to be the age of the person so brought before it shall for the purpose of the JJ Act, 2015 be deemed to be the true age of the person.”
The court noted that Section 94(3) of the JJ Act, 2015 is also significant inasmuch as the age of the child before the committee or the JJ Board is sought to be established at the level of the JJ Board or the Committee itself.
The court cited various cases to summarise eleven principles relating to the determination of juvenility and held that these principles will be applicable to the facts of the present case.
The respondents had submitted Certificate-cum-Marks Sheet of the High School issued by the Board of High School and Intermediate Examination U.P. dated 27.04.2019. stating that the date of birth of respondent no.2 was 25.09.2004 and that he had passed the High School Examination held in February, 2019.
The JJ board noted that a letter dated 22.07.2020 from the Office of the Administrative Officer, Regional Office, Intermediate Education Council, Meerut, UP, revealed that the accused date of birth had been correctly recorded in the High School mark-sheet as 25.09.2004. The incident occurred on May 5, 2020. As a result, respondent no. 2 was 15 years and 8 months old when the incident occurred.
The court held that the sub section 2 of the JJ act applies here and there are no reasonable grounds to doubt the said document.
The court found that section 94 of the JJ Act creates a presumption of juvenility based on the child's age when he or she is presented before the JJ board or the Committee. In cases where the board or committee has reasonable doubts about whether the individual placed before them is a child or not, they have the right to conduct an age determination by gathering evidence.
Therefore, in the initial state the authorities must establish a presumption that the child presented before the jj board is a juvenile. This said presumption is supposed to be drawn on observation of the child.
This presumption, however, may not be drawn if the board has reasonable grounds to doubt regarding the person brought before it is a child or not, the court said.
In such a case, the bench has specified the evidence on which the process of age determination can be done by the board as written down in section 94 clause 2 of the JJ Act, 2015.
The court noted that in the instant case there is no other document indicating anything contrary to what the date of birth is stated in the matriculation certificate. As a result, there is no discrepancy in the date of birth.
The court held that in the present case, they are not inclined to differ from the order of the HC which sustained the judgment of the District & Sessions Court as well as of the JJ Board as there is no contra evidence produced by the appellant in response to the documents produced by the respondent no.2
The appeal was dismissed by the court.
The supreme court in this case has made the principles of determining age of a juvenile clear. The court affirmed that if the JJ Board or committee feels reasonable doubts regarding the age of the person produced before them, they have a right to determine the age of the individual and that age will be considered as the true age of the person.