VINOD KATARA Versus STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH

VINOD KATARA Versus STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले


REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 121 OF 2022
VINOD KATARA      .…PETITIONER(S)
Versus
STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH                      ….RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
J.B. PARDIWALA, J.
1. Personal liberty of a person is one of the oldest concepts to be
purported by national courts. As long ago as in 1215, the English
Magna Carta provided that:­
 "No free man shall be taken or imprisoned.... but..... by law
of the land."
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2.   Today, the concept of personal liberty has received a far more
expansive interpretation. The notion that is accepted today is that
liberty encompasses these rights and privileges which have long
been   recognized   as   being   essential   to   the   orderly   pursuit   of
happiness   by   a   free   man   and   not   merely   freedom   from   bodily
restraint. There can be no cavil in saying that lodging juveniles in
adult prisons amounts to deprivation of their personal liberty on
multiple aspects.
3. This Writ Application under Article 32 of the Constitution is at
the instance of a convict accused undergoing life imprisonment for
the   offence   of   murder   seeking   appropriate   directions   to   the
respondent State of Uttar Pradesh to verify the exact age of the
convict on the date of the commission of the offence as it is the case
of the convict that on the date of the commission of the offence i.e.
10.09.1982 he was a juvenile aged around 15 years.
4. The facts giving rise to this litigation may be summarized as
under:
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(a) The writ applicant along with other co­accused persons was
put to trial for the offence punishable under Section 302 r/w 34 of
the IPC;
(b) The 5th  Additional Sessions Judge, Agra in the sessions trial
No.   535   of  1983   arising   from   the  case   crime   no.   126  of   1982
registered   with   the   Fatehpur   Sikri   District,   Agra   held   the   writ
applicant herein and the co­accused persons guilty of the offence of
murder and sentenced them to life imprisonment;
(c) The   writ   applicant   herein   and   the   other   convicts   went   in
appeal before the Allahabad High Court by filing the Cr. Appeal No.
133 of 1986 questioning the legality and validity of the judgment &
order of conviction passed by the trial court dated 06.01.1986;
(d) The appeal was heard by the High Court and vide judgment
and order dated 04.03.2016 came to be dismissed thereby affirming
the judgment and order of conviction passed by the trial court;
(e) The writ applicant herein dissatisfied with the order passed by
the   High   Court   dismissing   his   appeal,   referred   to   above,   came
before this Court by filing application for Special Leave to Appeal
(Crl.) No. 6048 of 2016. This Court vide order dated 16.08.2016
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declined to grant leave as prayed for and dismissed the Special
Leave Petition.
5. It may not be out of the place to state at this stage that till this
Court dismissed the Special Leave Petition vide the order dated
16.08.2016, the writ applicant herein had not raised the question of
him being a juvenile on the date of the commission of the alleged
offence on 10.09.1982.
6. It   appears   that   while   the   writ   applicant   was   undergoing
sentence   of   life   imprisonment,   he   was   subjected   to   medical
examination by the Medical Board constituted by the respondent
State in pursuance of the judgment rendered by a Division Bench of
the   Allahabad   High   Court   in   the   Criminal   Writ   Public   Interest
Litigation   No.   855   of   2012,   wherein   the   Division   Bench   of   the
Allahabad High Court observed as under:
“Admittedly, as per the State's earlier affidavits, it was
claimed that there were 72 prisoners, who may have been
below   18   years   in   age   and   who   are   detained   in   the
various district or Central jails. Their break up was as
follows:
There   were   23   such   prisoners   in   Bareilly,   1   in
Lucknow, 4 in Allahabad, 2 in Etawah, 18 in Agra and
23   in   Fatehgarh.   One   such   prisoner   Raju,   who
belonged to Faizabad, whose age was determined to
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be below 18 years by the Principal Magistrate, Juvenile
Justice Board was sent to Special Home after having
been detained for a long time in Faizabad jail.
Prima   facie   there   appears   to   be   some   material   for
suggesting that such prisoners, may have been below 18
years on the date of commission of the offences. After the
modification of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of
Children) Act, 2000, (hereafter the Act) by Act No. 33 of
2006, under section 2 (l) a juvenile in conflict with law
means a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an
offence and has not completed eighteen years of age as on
the date of commission of such offence.
Under   the   proviso   to   section   7A   (1)   of   the   Act,   it   is
mentioned that a claim of juvenility may be raised before
any court and it shall be recognised at any stage, even
after the final disposal of the case, and such claim shall be
determined in terms of the provisions contained in this Act
and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children)
Rules, 2007 (hereinafter the Rules).
We,   therefore,   direct   the   District   Judges,   who   are
Chairpersons of their respective Legal Services Authorities
to directly oversee that efficient lawyers are appointed for
the purpose of providing legal aid to the prisoners, (who
are   unable   to   engage   private   lawyers)   who   have   been
mentioned in the list furnished by the State Government
and described to be below 18 years in age on the date of
commission of offence. The said legal aid lawyers should
get   the   ages   of   the   prisoners   ascertained   by   obtaining
documents and carrying out the other measures provided
under Rule 12 of the Juvenile Justice Act and Rules and
also on the lines suggested by the Delhi High Court in WP
(C)   No.   8889   of   2011   (Court   on   its   own   motion   vs.
Department of Women and Child Development and others)
in its order dated 11.5.2012. Obtaining information about
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the probable date of birth of other siblings can also be
taken into account for ascertaining the true age of these
prisoners.   The   legal   aid   lawyers   may   also   find   out
whether  there   are  other  prisoners  in  jail,   who  may  be
below 18 years of age on the date of commission of the
offence   and   who   appear   to   be   wrongly   lodged   in   the
regular   prisons   for   adults   and   the   bases   for   their
conclusions.
Thereafter the matter may be placed before the Principal
Judge, Juvenile Justice Board for determining of the ages
as per the criteria set out above.
The prosecution and the complainant will also of course be
given an opportunity to examine their own witnesses and
to   cross­examine   the   witnesses,   who   have   been   got
examined on behalf of the accused and for that purpose
notices of the proceedings before the JJ Board shall be
served on the complainant/ prosecution. As it is possible
that in some cases the prisoners mentioned in the State's
list may indeed be below 18 years in age on the date of
offence, but as the basis for arrival at the conclusion in the
State's   list   were   usually   some   preliminary   medical
examinations and no detailed steps for ascertaining ages
had been taken after hearing both parties, and it cannot
be ruled out that in certain cases extraneous measures
may have been used for reducing the ages, we think that
such an exercise as detailed above wherein the ages are
ascertained after hearing both parties was needed. The
said exercise is to be competed within a period of two
months and the reports submitted to this Court on its next
listing.
The   District   Judges/District   Legal   Services   Authorities
shall   take   strict   measures   in   future   for   ensuring   that
prisoners below 18 years of age on the date of offence are
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not lodged in adults prisons in violation of the Juvenile
Justice Act and Rules.
So far as district Allahabad is concerned, we direct the
District Judge, Allahabad to permit Sister Sheeba Jose,
Advocate and Shri Rohan Gupta, Advocate to visit and
interview   the   concerned   prisoners   for   the   purpose   of
ascertaining their ages and for submitting the report to the
Court on the next date of listing.
It was further submitted by the learned counsel for the
petitioner that so far as the prisoner Raju is concerned,
whose age was determined to be below 18 years, he was
earlier lodged in Faizabad jail and was subsequently sent
to the Special Home. As he was convicted as far back as
in the year 2001 in a case under section 302 IPC. The
respondents   should   inform   this   Court   about   the   total
period spent in jail by this prisoner and in case it exceeds
3 years (which was the maximum permissible sentence in
view   of   section   15   of   the   Act)   the   basis   for   his   being
presently detained in the Special Home.”
Thus,   vide   the   order   dated   24.05.2012   referred   to   above
passed in a Public Interest Litigation being Criminal (PIL) Misc. W.P.
No. 855 of 2012, the Allahabad High Court directed the Juvenile
Justice Boards to hold an enquiry for determination of the age of
prisoners languishing in jails who claimed to have been juveniles in
conflict with the law. 
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7. The   Medical   Board   subjected   the   writ   applicant   herein   to
the X­rays of the skull and sternum. Upon medical examination of
the writ applicant herein, the Medical Board gave its report dated
10.12.2021   certifying   that   on   10.09.1982   i.e.   the   date   of   the
commission of the alleged offence, the writ applicant could have
been   around   15   years   of   age   as   on   the   date   of   the   medical
examination, the convict was around 56 years of age.
8. It appears that sometime later, the writ applicant was in a
position to obtain a document in the form of Family Register dated
02.03.2021 issued under the U.P. Panchayat Raj (Maintenance of
Family Registers) Rules, 1970. In the Family Register certificate, the
year of birth of the writ applicant herein is shown as 1968. If 1968
is the correct birth year of the writ applicant herein, then in 1982
he was about 14 years of age.
9. In such circumstances referred to above, the writ applicant is
here before this Court. He claims that as he was a juvenile on the
date of the commission of the alleged offence sometime in the year
1982, he could not have been put to trial along with other coaccused and should have been dealt with under the provisions of
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the Juvenile Justice Act as prevailing at the relevant point of time.
It is the prayer of the writ applicant that the respondent State be
directed to get the claim of the writ applicant in regard to the
juvenility   verified   through   the   concerned   Sessions   Court   or   the
Juvenile Justice Board.
Submissions on behalf of the writ applicant convict:
10. Mr. Rishi Malhotra, the learned counsel appearing for the writ
applicant vehemently submitted that although till the dismissal of
the Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 6048 od 2016 by this
Court vide order dated 16.08.2016, the convict had not raised the
plea of juvenility, yet the law permits him to raise such a plea even
at this point of time having regard to the provisions of the Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2011. It
is submitted that there is clinching evidence on record as on date in
the form of certificate issued by the Medical Board as well as the
Family Register to indicate that in the year 1982 the writ applicant
could   be   around   15   years   of   age.   The   learned   counsel   would
vehemently submit that there is no good ground to discard the
9
certificate issued by the Medical Board as well as the extract of the
Family Register. 
11. To fortify the aforesaid submissions, the learned counsel seeks
to rely upon a three­Judge Bench decision of this Court in the case
of Abuzar Hossain ALIAS Gulam Hossain v. State of West Bengal
reported in (2012) 10 SCC 489.
12. In such circumstances referred to above, the learned counsel
prays that there being merit in his writ petition, the same may be
allowed and appropriate directions may be issued to do complete
justice in the matter.
Submissions on behalf of the State
13. Mr.   Ardhendhumauli   Kr.   Prasad,   the   learned   Additional
Advocate General appearing for the State, on the other hand, has
vehemently   opposed   the   present   writ   application.   The   learned
counsel would submit that the Family Register is not admissible in
evidence and the entries made therein are not decisive to determine
the age. It is argued that the writ applicant has not placed on
record   any   document   of   any   educational   institution.   It   is   also
argued   that   no   ossification   test   was   undertaken   or   no   modern
10
recognized method was adopted for the purpose of determination of
age.
14. The   learned   counsel   appearing   for   the   State   invited   the
attention of this Court towards the order passed by a Coordinate
Bench of this Court in the case of  Ashok   v.   State   of  Madhya
Pradesh, Special Leave to Appeal (Criminal) No. 643 of 2020 dated
29.11.2021. The order passed by the Coordinate Bench referred to
above reads thus:­
“By   a   judgment   and   order   dated   29.07.1999,   the
Additional Sessions Judge, Gohad, District Bhind, Madhya
Pradesh,   convicted   the   petitioner   inter   alia   for   offence
under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced
him inter alia to life imprisonment in Sessions Trial No.
260 of 1997. In the cause title of the said judgment and
order, the petitioner has been described as Ashok, S/o
Balram Jatab age 16 yrs 9 months and 19 days, R/o
Village Anjani Pura, District Bhind. 
The petitioner filed an appeal being Criminal Appeal No.
455 of 1999 challenging his conviction and sentence. The
said   criminal   appeal   has   been   dismissed   by   the   High
Court by an order dated 14.11.2017, which is impugned
in the Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 643 of 2020, filed by
the petitioner. The incident which led to the conviction of
the petitioner, took place on 26.07.1997.
The   petitioner   claims   that   the   petitioner   was   born   on
05.01.1981. The petitioner was, therefore, approximately
16 years and 7 months old on the date of the incident. In
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this Court, the petitioner has for the first time contended
that he was a juvenile on the date of the incident. His
conviction and sentence are, therefore, liable to be setaside. The claim of juvenility was not raised in the High
Court.   The   learned   Additional   Advocate   General,
appearing on behalf of the State argued that the claim of
juvenility has been raised for the first time in this special
leave petition. The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986, which was
in force on the date of commission of the offence as also
the   date   of   the   judgment   and   order   of   conviction   and
sentence   by   the   Sessions   Court   was   repealed   by   the
Juvenile   Justice   (Care   and   Protection   of   Children)   Act,
2000. The Act of 2000 received the assent of the President
of   India   on   30.12.2000   and   came   into   force   on
01.04.2001. The Act of 2000 defined juvenile in conflict
with the law to mean a juvenile, who was alleged to have
committed an offence and had not completed 18th year of
age as on the date of commission of such an offence.
Under the 1986 Act, the age of juvenility was up to the
16th year. Section 7A of the 2000 Act as inserted by Act
33   of   2006   with   effect   from   22.08.2006   provided   as
follows:­
“7A. Procedure to be followed when claim of juvenility
is  raised before any Court.­(1)  Whenever a claim of
juvenility is raised before any court or a court is of the
opinion that an accused person was a juvenile on the
date of commission of the offence, the court shall make
an inquiry, take such evidence as may be necessary
(but not an affidavit) so as to determine the age of such
person, and shall record a finding whether the person
is a juvenile or a child or not, stating his age as nearly
as may be:
  Provided   that   a   claim   of   juvenility   may   be   raised
before any Court and it shall be recognised at any
stage, even after final disposal of the case, and such
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claim shall be determined in terms of the provisions
contained in this Act and the rules made thereunder,
even if the juvenile has ceased to be so on or before the
date of commencement of this Act. (2) If the court finds
a person to be a juvenile on the date of commission of
the offence under sub­section(1), it shall forward the
juvenile to the Board for passing appropriate orders
and the sentence, if any, passed by a court shall be
deemed to have no effect.” 
The   claim   of   juvenility   can   thus   be   raised   before   any
Court, at any stage, even after final disposal of the case
and if the Court finds a person to be a juvenile on the date
of commission of the offence, it is to forward the juvenile to
the   Board   for   passing   appropriate   orders,   and   the
sentence, if any, passed by a Court, shall be deemed to
have no effect. Even though the offence in this case may
have been committed before the enactment of the Act of
2000, the petitioner is entitled to the benefit of juvenility
under Section 7A of the Act of 2000, if on inquiry it is
found that he was less than 18 years of age on the date of
the alleged offence.
It   is   true   as   pointed   out   by   the   learned   Additional
Advocate General appearing on behalf of the State that the
certificate of Akikrit Shash, High School School Endouri,
District   Bhind,   Madhya   Pradesh   relied   upon   by   the
petitioner is stated to have been issued on 17.07.2021.
The said certificate does not specifically mention that the
date of birth 01.01.1982 had been entered at the time of
first admission of the petitioner at the primary school level.
Furthermore, there is a birth certificate issued by the Gram
Panchayat,   Endouri,   District   Bhind,   Madhya   Pradesh
which   indicates   the   date   of   birth   of   the   petitioner   as
05.01.1982 and not 01.01.1982 as recorded in the school
certificate referred to above. 
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The entry in the records of the Gram Panchayat, Endouri,
District Bhind, Madhya Pradesh, also do not appear to be
contemporaneous and the certificate has been issued in
the year 2017. 
However, as pointed out by Mr. M.P. Parthiban, learned
counsel   appearing   on   behalf   of   the   petitioner   that   the
Sessions Court has recorded the age of the petitioner as
16 years, 9 months and 19 days. The petitioner has been
in actual custody for over three years. 
The   2000   Act   has   been   repealed   and   replaced   by   the
Juvenile   Justice   (Care   and   Protection   of   Children)   Act,
2015. Section 21 of the 2015 Act provides as follows: 
“21. Order that may not be passed against a child in
conflict with law. – No child in conflict with law shall be
sentenced to death or for life imprisonment without the
possibility of release, for any such offence, either under
the provisions of this Act or under the provisions of the
Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being
in force.” 
Considering that the Trial Court has recorded the age of
the petitioner as 16 years and odd, and has been in actual
custody in excess of three years, which is the maximum
for   a   juvenile,   we   deem   it   appropriate   to   grant   the
petitioner interim bail on such terms and conditions as
may be imposed by the Sessions Court. We further direct
the Sessions Court to examine the claim of the petitioner to
juvenility in accordance with law, and submit a report to
this   Court   within   one   month   from   the   date   of
communication of this order. 
The concerned Sessions Court shall be entitled to examine
the authenticity and genuineness of the documents sought
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to be relied upon by the petitioner, considering that the
documents do not appear to be contemporaneous. 
In   the   event   the   documents   are   found   to   be
questionable/unreliable, it will be open to the Sessions
Court to have the petitioner medically examined by taking
an   ossification   test   or   any   other   modern   recognized
method of age determination.” 
15. The aforesaid order passed by the Coordinate Bench has been
relied upon by the learned counsel appearing for the State to fortify
his submission that if at all the issue in regard to the juvenility of
the writ applicant requires consideration, the same should be by
the Sessions Court i.e. the Court which had originally tried the writ
applicant for the alleged offence.
16. In such circumstances referred to above, the learned counsel
appearing for the State prays that let the Sessions Court look into
the certificate issued by the Medical Board including the Family
Register more particularly its authenticity and genuineness. 
Analysis:
17. Having heard the learned counsel appearing for the parties
and having gone through the materials on record, the only question
that falls for our consideration is that whether we should ask the
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Sessions Court to examine the authenticity and genuineness of the
documents   sought   to   be   relied   upon   by   the   writ   applicant   in
support of his plea of being a juvenile on the date of the commission
of the alleged offence in the year 1982 and also subject the convict
to further ossification test?
18. The   first   and   the   foremost   issue   that   arises   for   our
consideration in this writ petition is in regard to the applicability of
the   provisions   of   the   Juvenile   Justice   (Care   and   Protection   of
Children) Act, 2000 (for short, “the 2000 Act”). 
19.  In the aforesaid context, we must first look into the relevant
dates as follows:­
(a) The date of the incident is 10.09.1982. Thus, on the date
of incident even the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was not in
force. What was in force was the Children Act, 1960. The
Children Act, 1960 was a beneficial legislation enacted to
take care of the delinquent and neglected children. Under
the said Act, a child meant a person who had not attained
the age of 16 years in the case of a boy or 18 years in the
case of a girl. 
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(b)  The petitioner herein came to be convicted by the trial
court vide judgment and order dated 06.01.1986.   Even
on the date of conviction, the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986
was not in force.  The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 came in
force with effect from 01.12.1986.  Thus, even on the date
of conviction, the Children Act, 1960 governed the field.
(c) The appeal filed by the petitioner herein in the High Court
of Allahabad against the judgment and order of conviction
passed by the trial court came to be decided and was
ordered to be dismissed vide judgment and order dated
04.03.2016.  It is relevant to note that on the date when
the appeal came to be dismissed by the High Court, the
2000 Act was in force.
(d) Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) No. 6048 of 2016 filed by
the petitioner herein in this Court came to be dismissed
vide order dated 16.08.2016.
20. On and with effect from 15.01.2016, the Juvenile Justice (Care
and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (for short, “the 2015 Act”)
came into force which repealed the 2000 Act. While the appeal of
the   petitioner   herein   against   his   conviction   and   sentence   was
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pending in the High Court, the 2000 Act came into force which
repealed the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986. The 2000 Act  inter alia
raised   the   age   of   juvenility   from   16   to   18   years   and   in   terms
of Section 20 of the 2000 Act, the determination of juvenility was
required   to   be   done   in   all   pending   matters   in   accordance
with Section 2(1) of the 2000 Act. 
21.  The   effect   of Section   20 of   the   2000   Act   was   considered
in Pratap Singh v. State of Jharkhand, (2005) 3 SCC 551, and it
was stated as under:­
“31. Section 20 of the Act as quoted above deals with the
special provision in respect of pending cases and begins
with   a   non   obstante   clause.   The   sentence
“notwithstanding   anything   contained   in   this   Act,   all
proceedings in respect of a juvenile pending in any court
in any area on the date on which this Act came into
force” has great significance. The proceedings in respect
of a juvenile pending in any court referred to in Section
20 of the Act are relatable to proceedings initiated before
the 2000 Act came into force and which are pending
when the 2000 Act came into force. The term “any court”
would   include   even   ordinary   criminal   courts.   If   the
person   was   a   “juvenile”   under   the   1986   Act   the
proceedings  would  not  be pending  in  criminal   courts.
They would be pending in criminal courts only if the boy
had crossed 16 years or the girl had crossed 18 years.
This   shows   that Section   20 refers   to   cases   where   a
person had ceased to be a juvenile under the 1986 Act
but had not yet crossed the age of 18 years then the
18
pending case shall continue in that court as if the 2000
Act has not been passed and if the court finds that the
juvenile has committed an offence, it shall record such
finding and instead of passing any sentence in respect of
the   juvenile,   shall   forward   the   juvenile   to   the   Board
which shall pass orders in respect of that juvenile.”
22.      In     Bijender Singh v. State of Haryana, (2005) 3 SCC 685,
the   legal   position   as   regards Section   20 was   stated   in   following
words:­
“8. One of the basic distinctions between the 1986 Act
and the 2000 Act relates to the age of males and females.
Under the 1986 Act, a juvenile means a male juvenile
who has not attained the age of 16 years, and a female
juvenile who has not attained the age of 18 years. In the
2000   Act,   the   distinction   between   male   and   female
juveniles on the basis of age has not been maintained.
The age­limit is 18 years for both males and females.
9. A person above 16 years in terms of the 1986 Act was
not a juvenile. In that view of the matter the question
whether   a   person   above   16   years   becomes   “juvenile”
within the purview of the 2000 Act must be answered
having regard to the object and purport thereof.
10. In terms of the 1986 Act, a person who was not
juvenile could be tried in any court. Section 20 of the
2000   Act   takes   care   of   such   a   situation   stating   that
despite the same the trial shall continue in that court as
if that Act has not been passed and in the event, he is
found to be guilty of commission of an offence, a finding
to   that   effect   shall   be   recorded   in   the   judgment   of
conviction, if any, but instead of passing any sentence in
relation to the juvenile, he would be forwarded to the
Juvenile Justice Board (in short “the Board”) which shall
19
pass orders in accordance with the provisions of the Act
as if it has been satisfied on inquiry that a juvenile has
committed the offence. A legal fiction has, thus, been
created in the said provision. A legal fiction as is well
known must be given its full effect although it has its
limitations. …………
11. ………….
12. Thus, by reason of legal fiction, a person, although
not a juvenile, has to be treated to be one by the Board
for   the   purpose   of   sentencing,   which   takes   care   of   a
situation that the person although not a juvenile in terms
of the 1986 Act but still would be treated as such under
the 2000 Act for the said limited purpose.”
23.  In Dharambir v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2010) 5 SCC 344, the
determination of juvenility even after conviction was one of the
issues and it was stated:­
“11.   It   is  plain   from  the   language  of   the   Explanation
to Section   20 that   in   all   pending   cases,   which   would
include not only trials but even subsequent proceedings
by way of revision or appeal, etc., the determination of
juvenility of a juvenile has to be in terms of clause (l)
of Section 2, even if the juvenile ceases to be a juvenile on
or before 1­4­2001, when the Act of 2000 came into force,
and the provisions of the Act would apply as if the said
provision had been in force for all purposes and for all
material times when the alleged offence was committed.
12. Clause (l) of Section 2 of the Act of 2000 provides that
“juvenile in conflict with law” means a “juvenile” who is
alleged   to   have   committed   an   offence   and   has   not
completed   eighteenth   year   of   age   as   on   the   date   of
commission of such offence. Section 20 also enables the
20
court to consider and determine the juvenility of a person
even   after   conviction   by   the   regular   court   and   also
empowers the court, while maintaining the conviction, to
set aside the sentence imposed and forward the case to
the   Juvenile   Justice   Board   concerned   for   passing
sentence in accordance with the provisions of the Act of
2000.”
24.   Similarly, in Kalu  v.  State  of  Haryana  , (2012) 8 SCC 34,
this Court summed up as under:­
“21. Section 20 makes a special provision in respect of
pending cases. It states that notwithstanding anything
contained in the Juvenile Act, all proceedings in respect
of a juvenile pending in any court in any area on the date
on which the Juvenile Act comes into force in that area
shall be continued in that court as if the Juvenile Act had
not been passed and if the court finds that the juvenile
has committed an offence, it shall record such finding
and instead of passing any sentence in respect of the
juvenile forward the juvenile to the Board which shall
pass orders in respect of that juvenile in accordance with
the   provisions   of   the   Juvenile   Act   as   if   it   had   been
satisfied   on   inquiry   under   the   Juvenile   Act   that   the
juvenile   has   committed   the   offence.   The   Explanation
to Section 20 makes it clear that in all pending cases,
which would include not only trials but even subsequent
proceedings   by   way   of   revision   or   appeal,   the
determination of juvenility of a juvenile would be in terms
of clause (l) of Section 2, even if the juvenile ceased to be
a juvenile on or before 1­4­2001, when the Juvenile Act
came into force, and the provisions of the Juvenile Act
would apply as if the said provision had been in force for
all purposes and for all material times when the alleged
offence was committed.”
21
25.  It is thus well settled that in terms of Section 20 of the 2000
Act, in all cases where the accused was above 16 years but below
18 years of age on the date of occurrence, the proceedings pending
in the Court would continue and be taken to the logical end subject
to an exception that upon finding the juvenile to be guilty, the
Court would not pass an order of sentence against him but the
juvenile would be referred to the Board for appropriate orders under
the 2000 Act.
26. Thus, in view of the aforesaid discussion, we now proceed to
consider the matter further keeping in view the 2000 Act. 
27. Section 7A of the 2000 Act reads as under:
“7A.   Procedure   to   be   followed   when   claim   of
juvenility is raised before any Court­
(1) Whenever a claim of juvenility is raised before any
court or a court is of the opinion that an accused person
was a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence,
the court shall make an inquiry, take such evidence as
may be necessary (but not an affidavit) so as to determine
the age of such person, and shall record a finding whether
the person is a juvenile or a child or not, stating his age as
nearly as may be:
Provided that a claim of juvenility may be raised before
any Court and it shall be recognised at any stage, even
22
after final disposal of the case, and such claim shall be
determined in terms of the provisions contained in this Act
and the rules made thereunder, even if the juvenile has
ceased to be so on or before the date of commencement of
this Act. 
(2) If the court finds a person to be a juvenile on the date of
commission of the offence under sub­section (1), it shall
forward the juvenile to the Board for passing appropriate
orders and the sentence, if any, passed by a court shall be
deemed to have no effect.” 
28. From a reading of Section 7A what becomes very obvious is
that whenever a claim of juvenility is raised, an inquiry has to be
made  and  such  inquiry  would  take  place by  receiving evidence
which would be necessary but not an affidavit so as to determine
the age of such person.  
29. Reference is also required to be made to Chapter II of the
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007 (for
short   “the   2007   Rules”),  more   particularly   to   Rule   3(1)   and
Principles II, IV, XI, XII, XIII & XIV enumerated in Rule 3(2). The
said provisions and principles are extracted herein below­
“3. Fundamental   principles   to   be   followed   in
administration of these rules.—
23
(1) The State Government, the Juvenile Justice Board, the
Child Welfare Committee or other competent authorities or
agencies, as the case may be, while 
(2)   The   following   principles   shall,   inter   alia,   be
fundamental   to   the   application,   interpretation   and
implementation of the Act and the rules made hereunder:
x x x x x 
II. Principle of dignity and worth
(a) Treatment that is consistent with the Child's sense
of   dignity   and   worth   is   a   fundamental   principle   of
juvenile justice. This principle reflects the fundamental
human   right   enshrined   in   Article   I   of   the   Universal
Declaration of Human Rights that all human beings are
born free and equal in dignity and rights. Respect of
dignity includes not being humiliated, personal identity
boundaries   and   space   being   respected,   not   being
labeled and stigmatized, being offered information and
choices and not being blamed for their acts.
(b) The juvenile's or Child's right to dignity and worth
has to be respected and protected throughout the entire
process of dealing with the child from the first contact
with law enforcement agencies to the implementing of
all measures for dealing with the child.
III. Principle of Right to be heard
Every child's right to express his views freely in all matters
affecting his interest shall be fully respected through every
stage in the process of juvenile justice. Children's right to
be   heard   shall   include   creation   of   developmentally
appropriate   tools   and   processes   of   interacting   with   the
child, promoting Children's active involvement in decisions
regarding their own lives and providing opportunities for
discussion and debate.
IV. Principle of Best Interest
24
(a)   In   all   decisions   taken   within   the   context   of
administration   of   juvenile   justice,   the   principle   of   best
interest of the juvenile or the juvenile in conflict with law or
child shall be the primary consideration.
(b) The principle of best interest of the juvenile or juvenile
in conflict with law or child shall mean for instance that
the traditional objectives of criminal justice, retribution and
repression, must give way to rehabilitative and restorative
objectives of juvenile justice.
(c)   This   principle   seeks   to   ensure   physical,   emotional,
intellectual, social and moral development of a juvenile in
conflict   with   law   or   child   so   as   to   ensure   the   safety,
well being and permanence for each child and thus enable
each child to survive and reach his or her full potential.
x x x x  x 
XI.  Principle  of  right  to  privacy  and  confidentiality
The juvenile's or Child's right to privacy and confidentiality
shall be protected by all means and through all the stages
of the proceedings ad care and protection processes.
25
XII. Principle of last resort
Institutionalization of a child or juvenile in conflict with law
shall be a step of the last resort after reasonable inquiry
and that too for the minimum possible duration.
XIII. Principle of repatriation and restoration
(a) Every juvenile or child in conflict with law has the right
to be re­united with his family and restored back to the
same socio­economic cultural status that such juvenile or
child enjoyed before coming within the purview of the Act
or becoming vulnerable to any form of neglect, abuse or
exploitation.
(b) Any juvenile or child, who has lost contact with his
family, shall be eligible for protection under the Act and
shall be repatriated and restored, at the earliest, to his
family, unless such repatriation and restoration is likely to
be against the best interest of the juvenile or the child.
XIV. Principle of Fresh Start
(a) The principle of fresh start promotes new beginning for
the   child   or   juvenile   in   conflict   with   law   by   ensuring
erasure of his part records.
(b) The State shall seek to promote measures for dealing
with children alleged or recognized as having impinged the
penal law, without resorting to juridical proceedings.”
b. It is submitted that Section 51 of the Act provides that
the report of a probation officer or a social worker shall be
confidential. It is further submitted that Rule 18 provides
for a procedure to be followed in respect of violation of
Section 21.”
30. Besides the International Convention and the provisions of the
2000 Act resply, it may be noted that the Constitutional guarantee
26
for the protection of the child is enshrined in Article 39 of the
Constitution. Article 39 reads as under:­
“39. Certain principles of policy to be followed by the
State­
(e)   that   the   health   and   strength   of   workers,   men   and
women, and the tender age of children are not abused and
that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter
avocations unsuited to their age or strength;
(f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to
develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom
and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected
against   exploitation   and   against   moral   and   material
abandonment.”
31. The procedure to be followed for the determination of age is
provided under Rule 12(3)(b) of the 2007 Rules, which reads as:
“12. Procedure   to   be   followed   in   determination   of
age.—(3) In every case concerning a child or juvenile in
conflict with law, the age determination inquiry shall be
conducted by the court or the Board or, as the case  may
be, the Committee by seeking evidence by obtaining—
(a)(i)  the matriculation or equivalent certificates,
if available; and in the absence whereof;
   (ii) the date of birth certificate from the school
(other than a play school) first attended; and in the
absence whereof;
  (iii) the birth certificate given by a corporation
or a municipal authority or a panchayat;
(b) and only in the absence of either (i), (ii) or (iii) of
clause (a) above, the medical opinion will be sought
from a duly constituted Medical Board, which will
27
declare the age of the juvenile or child. In case exact
assessment of the age cannot be done, the Court or
the Board or, as the case may be, the Committee, for
the   reasons   to   be   recorded   by   them,   may,   if
considered necessary, give benefit to the child or
juvenile by considering his/her age on lower side
within the margin of one year. 
and,   while   passing   orders   in   such   case   shall,   after
taking   into   consideration   such   evidence   as   may   be
available, or the medical opinion, as the case may be,
record a finding in respect of his age and either of the
evidence specified in any of the clauses (a)(i), (ii), (iii) or
in   the   absence   whereof,   clause   (b)   shall   be   the
conclusive proof of the age as regards such child or the
juvenile in conflict with law.”
32. Sub­clause (3) of the aforesaid Rule clearly mandates that
while conducting an inquiry about the juvenility of an accused, the
Juvenile   Justice   Board   would   seek   evidence   by   obtaining   the
matriculation or equivalent certificates and in the absence whereof
the date of birth certificate from the school first attended and in
absence whereof the birth certificate given by a corporation or a
Municipal authority or a Panchayat. It is made clear by sub­clause
(b)   that   only   in   the   absence   of   the   aforesaid   three   documents,
medical   information   would   be   sought   from   a   duly   constituted
Medical Board which will declare the age of the juvenile or child.
28
Thus, it is only in the absence of the aforesaid documents that the
Juvenile   Justice   Board   could   have   asked   for   medical
information/ossification test.
33. The 2000 Act stands repealed by the 2015 Act. The procedure
for determining the age is now part of Section 94 of the 2015 Act
which was earlier provided under the abovementioned Rule 12 of
the Rules.
Family Register
34. The Family Register Rules prescribes preparation of a Family
Register in the State of Uttar Pradesh which contains family­wise
names   and   particulars   of   all   persons   ordinarily   residing   in   the
village pertaining to the Gaon Sabha. Such Rules have been framed
under Section 110 of the U.P. Panchayat Raj Act, 1947. Such Rules
read as under:
“1. (1) These Rules may be called the U.P. Panchayat Raj
(Maintenance of Family Registers) Rules, 1970.
2. Form and preparation of family register.—A family
register in form A shall be prepared containing family­wise
the   names   and   particulars   of   all   persons   ordinarily
residing   in   the   village   pertaining   to   the   Gaon   Sabha.
Ordinarily one page shall be allotted to each family in the
register. There shall be a separate section in the register
29
for   families   belonging   to   the   Scheduled   Castes.   The
register shall be prepared in Hindi in Devanagri script.
3. General conditions for registration in the register.
—Every person who has been ordinarily resident within
the   area   of   the   Gaon   Sabha   shall   be   entitled   to   be
registered in the family register.
Explanation.—A person shall be deemed to be ordinarily
resident in a village if he has been ordinarily residing in
such village or is in possession of a dwelling house therein
ready for occupation.
4. Quarterly   entries   in   the   family   register.—At   the
beginning of each quarter commencing from April in each
year, the Secretary of a Gaon Sabha shall make necessary
changes in the family register consequent upon births and
deaths, if any occurring in the previous quarter in each
family. Such changes shall be laid before the next meeting
of the Gaon Panchayat for information.
5. Correction   of   any   existing   entry.—The   Assistant
Development Officer (Panchayat) may on an application
made to him in this behalf order the correction of any
existing entry in the family register and the Secretary of
the   Gaon   Sabha   shall   then   correct   the   Register
accordingly.
6. Inclusion of names in the Register.—(1) Any person
whose name is not included in the family register may
apply to the Assistant Development Officer (Panchayat) for
the inclusion of his name therein.
(2) The Assistant Development Officer (Panchayat) shall, if
satisfied,   after   such   enquiry   as   he   thinks   fit   that   the
applicant is entitled to be registered in the Register, direct
that the name of the applicant be included therein and the
Secretary   of   the   Gaon   Sabha   shall   include   the   name
accordingly.
6­A. Any person aggrieved by an order made under Rule 5
or Rule 6 may, within 30 days from the date of such order
30
prefer   and   appeal   to   the   Sub­Divisional   Officer   whose
decision shall be final.
7. Custody and preservation of the register.—(1) The
Secretary of the Gaon Sabha shall be responsible for the
safe custody of the family register.
(2) Every person shall have a right to inspect the Register
and to get attested copy of any entry or extract therefrom
in such manner and on payment of such fees, if any, as
may be specified in Rule 73 of the U.P. Panchayat Raj
Rules.
FORM A
(See Rule 2)
***
Note.—In the remarks column the number and date of the
order, if any, by which any name is added or struck off
should be given along with the signature of the person
making the entry.”
35. A perusal of the above Rules indicate that one page is allotted
to each family and that any change in the family consequent upon
the births and deaths is required to be incorporated on such page.
The changes are also required to be laid before the next meeting of
the   Gram   Panchayat.   Thus,   it   is   evident   that   such   Rules   are
statutorily   framed   in   pursuance   of   an   Act.   The   entries   in   the
register   are   required   to   be   made   by   the   officials   of   the   Gram
Panchayat as part of their official duty. 
31
36. This   Court   in   the   case   of  Manoj   v.   State   of   Haryana,
reported in (2022) 6 SCC 187, observed in regard to the Family
Register referred to above as under:­
“39. We are unable to approve the broad view taken by
the High Court in some of the cases that family register is
not relevant to determine age of the family members. It is a
question of fact as to how much evidentiary value is to be
attached to the family register, but to say that it is entirely
not relevant would not be the correct enunciation of law.
The register is being maintained in accordance with the
rules framed under a statute. The entries made in the
regular course of the affairs of the Panchayat would thus
be relevant but the extent of such reliance would be in
view of the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case.”
                                                         (Emphasis supplied)
37. In Abuzar Hossain (supra), this Court held as under:­
“30. As a matter of fact, prior to the decisions of this Court
in Hari Ram [(2009) 13 SCC 211 : (2010) 1 SCC (Cri) 987]
and Akbar Sheikh [(2009) 7 SCC 415 : (2009) 3 SCC (Cri)
431] , a three­Judge Bench of this Court speaking through
one of us (R.M. Lodha, J.) in Pawan [(2009) 15 SCC 259 :
(2010)   2   SCC   (Cri)   522]   had   considered   the   question
relating to admissibility of claim of juvenility for the first
time   in   this   Court   with   reference   to   Section   7­A.   The
contention of juvenility was raised for the first time before
this Court on behalf of the two appellants, namely, A­1
and A­2. The argument on their behalf before this Court
was that they were “juvenile” within the meaning of the
2000 Act on the date of incident and the trial held against
them under the Code was illegal. With regard to A­1, his
school leaving certificate was relied on while as regards A2, reliance was placed on his statement recorded under
32
Section 313 and the school leaving certificate. Dealing with
the contention of juvenility, this Court stated that the claim
of juvenility could be raised at any stage, even after final
disposal of the case. The Court then framed the question
in para 41 of the Report as to whether an inquiry should
be   made   or   report   be   called   for   from   the   trial   court
invariably where  juvenility is claimed  for the  first time
before this Court.
31. It was held in Pawan, (2009) 15 SCC 259 that where
the  materials  placed  before  this  Court  by the  accused,
prima facie, suggested that he was a “juvenile” as defined
in the 2000 Act on the date of incident, it was necessary to
call   for   the   report   or   an   inquiry   to   be   made   for
determination of the age on the date of incident. However,
where a plea of juvenility is found unscrupulous or the
materials lack credibility or do not inspire confidence and
even prima facie satisfaction of the court is not made out,
further exercise in this regard may not be required. It was
also stated that if the plea of juvenility was not raised
before the trial court or the High Court and is raised for the
first time before this Court, the judicial conscience of the
court must be satisfied by placing adequate material that
the accused had not attained the age of 18 years on the
date   of   commission   of   the   offence.   In   the   absence   of
adequate   material,   any   further   inquiry   into   juvenility
would not be required.
32. Having regard to the general guidelines highlighted in
para 41 of Pawan case [(2009) 15 SCC 259 : (2010) 2 SCC
(Cri) 522] with regard to the approach of this Court where
juvenility   is   claimed   for   the   first   time,   the   Court   then
considered the documents relied upon by A­1 and A­2 in
support of the claim of juvenility on the date of incident. In
respect of the two documents relied upon by A­2, namely,
statement under Section 313 of the Code and the school
leaving certificate, this Court observed that the statement
33
recorded under Section 313 was a tentative observation
based   on   physical   appearance   which   was   hardly
determinative   of   age   and   insofar   as   school   leaving
certificate was concerned, it did not inspire any confidence
as it was issued after A­2 had already been convicted and
the primary evidence like entry from the birth register had
not been produced. As regards school leaving certificate
relied upon by A­1, this Court found that the same had
been procured after his conviction and no entry from the
birth register had been produced. The Court was, thus, not
prima facie impressed or satisfied by the material placed
on behalf of A­1 and A­2. Those documents were not found
satisfactory and adequate to call for any report from the
Board or the trial court about the age of A­1 and A­2.”
In Para 39, the Court summarizes the legal position as under:­
“39.1. A claim of juvenility may be raised at any stage
even after the final disposal of the case. It may be raised
for the first time before this Court as well after the final
disposal of the case. The delay in raising the claim of
juvenility cannot be a ground for rejection of such claim.
The claim of juvenility can be raised in appeal even if not
pressed before the trial court and can be raised for the
first time before this Court though not pressed before the
trial court and in the appeal court.
39.2. For making a claim with regard to juvenility after
conviction,   the   claimant   must   produce   some   material
which may prima facie satisfy the court that an inquiry
into the claim of juvenility is necessary. Initial burden has
to be discharged by the person who claims juvenility.
39.3. As to what materials would prima facie satisfy the
court   and/or   are   sufficient   for   discharging   the   initial
burden cannot be catalogued nor can it be laid down as to
what weight should be given to a specific piece of evidence
34
which may be sufficient to raise presumption of juvenility
but the documents referred to in Rules 12(3)(a)(i) to (iii)
shall definitely be sufficient for prima facie satisfaction of
the court about the age of the delinquent necessitating
further enquiry under Rule  12. The statement recorded
under Section 313 of the Code is too tentative and may not
by itself be sufficient ordinarily to justify or reject the claim
of   juvenility.   The   credibility   and/or   acceptability   of   the
documents like the school leaving certificate or the voters'
list, etc. obtained after conviction would depend on the
facts and circumstances of each case and no hard­andfast rule can be prescribed that they must be prima facie
accepted or rejected. In Akbar Sheikh [(2009) 7 SCC 415 :
(2009) 3 SCC (Cri) 431] and Pawan [(2009) 15 SCC 259 :
(2010) 2 SCC (Cri) 522] these documents were not found
prima   facie   credible   while   in Jitendra   Singh [(2010)   13
SCC 523 : (2011) 1 SCC (Cri) 857] the documents viz.
school   leaving   certificate,   marksheet   and   the   medical
report were treated sufficient for directing an inquiry and
verification of the appellant's age. If such documents prima
facie inspire confidence of the court, the court may act
upon such documents for the purposes of Section 7­A and
order   an   enquiry   for   determination   of   the   age   of   the
delinquent.
39.4. An affidavit of the claimant or any of the parents or
a sibling or a relative in support of the claim of juvenility
raised for the first time in appeal or revision or before this
Court during the pendency of the matter or after disposal
of the case shall not be sufficient justifying an enquiry to
determine the age of such person unless the circumstances
of   the   case   are   so   glaring   that   satisfy   the   judicial
conscience   of   the   court   to   order   an   enquiry   into
determination of the age of the delinquent.
39.5. The court where the plea of juvenility is raised for
the first time should always be guided by the objectives of
35
the   2000   Act   and   be   alive   to   the   position   that   the
beneficent and salutary provisions contained in the 2000
Act are not defeated by the hypertechnical approach and
the persons who are entitled to get benefits of the 2000
Act   get   such   benefits.   The   courts   should   not   be
unnecessarily influenced by any general impression that
in schools the parents/guardians understate the age of
their wards by one or two years for future benefits or that
age   determination   by   medical   examination   is   not   very
precise. The matter should be considered prima facie on
the touchstone of preponderance of probability.
39.6. Claim of juvenility lacking in credibility or frivolous
claim   of   juvenility   or   patently   absurd   or   inherently
improbable claim of juvenility must be rejected by the court
at the threshold whenever raised.”
38. Justice   T.S.   Thakur   (as   His   Lordship   then   was),   by   his
separate but concurring judgment, observed as under:­
“43.2. The second factor which must ever remain present
in the mind of the Court is that the claim of juvenility may
at times be made even in cases where the accused does
not   have   any   evidence   showing   his   date   of   birth   by
reference to any public document like the Register of Births
and   Deaths   maintained   by   the   municipal   authorities,
panchayats   or   hospitals   nor   any   certificate   from   any
school, as the accused was never admitted to any school.
Even  if   admitted  to  a  school  no   record  regarding  such
admission may at times be available for production in the
court. Again, there may be cases in which the accused
may not be in a position to provide a birth certificate from
the corporation, the municipality or the panchayat, for we
know that the registration of births and deaths may not be
36
maintained   and   if   maintained   may not   be  regular and
accurate, and at times truthful.
44. Rule 12(3) of the Rules makes only three certificates
relevant. These are enumerated in sub­rules 3(a)(i) to (iii) of
the Rule which reads as under:
“(3)(a)(i) the matriculation or equivalent certificates,
if available; and in the absence whereof;
(ii) the date of birth certificate from the school (other
than   a   play   school)   first   attended;   and   in   the
absence whereof;
(iii) the birth certificate given by a corporation or a
municipal authority or a panchayat;
Non­production of the above certificates or any one of them
is not, however, fatal to the claim of juvenility, for sub­rule
(3)(b) to Rule 12 makes a provision for determination of the
question on the basis of the medical examination of the
accused in the “absence” of the certificates.
     45. Rule 12(3)(b) runs as under:
“12.(3)(b) and only in the absence of either (i), (ii) or (iii) of
clause (a) above, the medical opinion will be sought from
a duly constituted Medical Board, which will declare the
age of the juvenile or child. In case exact assessment of
the age cannot be done, the court or the Board or, as the
case   may   be,   the   Committee,   for   the   reasons   to   be
recorded   by   them,   may,   if   considered   necessary,   give
benefit to the child or juvenile by considering his/her age
on lower side within the margin of one year,”
The expression “absence” appearing in the above provision
is not defined under the Act or the Rules. The word shall,
therefore, be given its literal dictionary meaning which is
provided by Concise Oxford Dictionary as under:
37
“Absence.—Being away from a place or person; time
of being away; non­existence or lack of; inattention
due to thought of other things.”
Black's   Law   Dictionary also   explains   the   meaning   of
“absence” as under:
“Absence.—(1) The state of being away from one's usual
place   of   residence.   (2)   A   failure   to   appear,   or   to   be
available and reachable, when expected. (3) Louisiana
law. The state of being an absent person.— Also termed
(in sense 3) absentia.”
46. It is axiomatic that the use of the expression and the
context   in   which   the   same   has   been   used   strongly
suggests that “absence” of the documents mentioned in
Rule 12(3)(a)(i) to (iii) may be either because the same do
not exist or the same cannot be produced by the person
relying   upon   them.   Mere   non­production   may   not,
therefore, disentitle the accused of the benefit of the Act
nor can it tantamount to deliberate non­production, giving
rise  to an adverse inference  unless the court is in the
peculiar facts and circumstances of a case of the opinion
that the non­production is deliberate or intended to either
mislead the court or suppress the truth. It is in this class of
cases that the court may have to exercise its powers and
discretion with a certain amount of insight into the realities
of life.
47. One of such realities is that illiteracy and crime have a
close nexus though one may not be directly proportional to
the   other.   Juvenile   delinquency   in   this   country   as
elsewhere   in   the   world,   springs   from   poverty   and
unemployment, more than it does out of other causes. A
large number of those engaged in criminal activities, may
never have had the opportunity to go to school. Studies
conducted by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB),
Ministry of Home Affairs, reveal that poor education and
38
poor economic set up are generally the main attributes of
juvenile   delinquents.   Result   of   the   2011   study   further
show that out of 33,887 juveniles arrested in 2011, 55.8%
were   either   illiterate   (6122)   or   educated   only   till   the
primary level (12,803). Further, 56.7% of the total juveniles
arrested fell into the lowest income category. A similar
study is conducted and published by B.N. Mishra in his
book Juvenile Delinquency and Justice System, in which
the author states as follows:
“One of the prominent features of a delinquent is
poor educational attainment. More than 63 per cent
of   delinquents   are   illiterate.   Poverty   is   the   main
cause   of   their   illiteracy.   Due   to   poor   economic
condition   they   were   compelled   to   enter   into   the
labour market to supplement their family income. It
is also felt that poor educational attainment is not
due to the lack of intelligence but may be due to lack
of opportunity. Although free education is provided
to  Scheduled  Castes  and   Scheduled   Tribes,  even
then,   the   delinquents   had   a   very   low   level   of
expectations and aspirations regarding their future
which in turn is due to lack of encouragement and
unawareness of their parents that they play truant.”
(emphasis supplied)
What should then be the approach in such cases, is the
question. Can the advantage of a beneficial legislation be
denied  to such  unfortunate  and  wayward  delinquents?
Can the misfortune of the accused never going to a school
be followed or compounded by denial of the benefit that
the   legislation   provides   in   such   emphatic   terms,   as   to
permit an enquiry even after the last Court has disposed
of the appeal and upheld his conviction? The answer has
to be in the negative.
39
48. If one were to adopt a wooden approach, one could
say nothing short of a certificate, whether from the school
or   a   municipal   authority   would   satisfy   the   court's
conscience, before directing an enquiry. But, then directing
an enquiry is not the same thing as declaring the accused
to be a juvenile. The standard of proof required is different
for both. In the former, the court simply records a prima
facie   conclusion.   In   the   latter,   the   court   makes   a
declaration on evidence, that it scrutinises and accepts
only if it is worthy of such acceptance. The approach at the
stage of directing the enquiry has of necessity to be more
liberal,   lest,   there   is   avoidable   miscarriage   of   justice.
Suffice it to say that while affidavits may not be generally
accepted as a good enough basis for directing an enquiry,
that they are not so accepted is not a rule of law but a rule
of   prudence.   The   Court   would,   therefore,   in   each   case
weigh   the   relevant   factors,   insist   upon   filing   of   better
affidavits   if   the   need   so   arises,   and   even   direct,   any
additional information considered relevant including the
information regarding the age of the parents, the age of
siblings and the like, to be furnished before it decides on a
case   to   case   basis   whether   or   not   an   enquiry   under
Section   7­A   ought   to   be   conducted.   It   will   eventually
depend on how the court evaluates such material for a
prima facie conclusion that the court may or may not direct
an enquiry.”                                            (Emphasis
supplied)
39. Thus, Section 7A(1) of the  2000 Act  and the proviso thereto
provided that a claim of juvenility might be raised before any court
and it shall be recognized at any stage, even after the final disposal
of the case, and such claim shall be determined in terms of the
provisions   contained   in   the   2000   Act   and   the   Rules   made
40
thereunder, even if the juvenile has ceased to be so, on or before the
date of commencement of the 2000 Act. 
40. Sub­section (2) of Section 7A mandates that if the Court finds
a person to be a juvenile on the date of the commission of offence
under sub­section (1), it shall forward the juvenile to the Juvenile
Justice Board for passing an appropriate order, and the sentence, if
any, passed by a Court shall be deemed to have no effect. 
41. Section 16 of the 2000 Act provides as hereunder:­ 
“16. Order that may not be passed against juvenile.
(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in
any other law for the time being in force, no juvenile in
conflict   with   law   shall   be   sentenced   to   death   or
imprisonment   for   any   term   which   may   extend   to
imprisonment for life, or committed to prison in default of
payment of fine or in default of furnishing security: 
Provided that where a juvenile who has attained the age
of sixteen years has committed an offence and the Board
is satisfied that the offence committed is of so serious in
nature or that his conduct and behaviour have been such
that it would not be in his interest or in the interest of other
juvenile in a special home to send him to such special
home and that none of the other measures provided under
this Act is suitable or sufficient, the Board may order the
juvenile in conflict with law to be kept in such place of
safety and in such manner as it thinks fit and shall report
the case for the order of the State Government. 
41
(2) On receipt of a report from a Board under sub­section
(1), the State Government may make such arrangement in
respect of the juvenile as it deems proper and may order
such juvenile to be kept under protective custody at such
place and on such conditions as it thinks fit:
Provided that the period of detention so ordered shall
not   exceed   in   any   case   the   maximum   period   provided
under Section 15 of this Act.”
42. The maximum period of detention in respect of a juvenile is
three   years   as   provided   in   Section   15(1)(g).   The   said   Section
provides   that   where   the   Juvenile   Justice   Board   is,   on   inquiry,
satisfied   that   the   juvenile   has   committed   an   offence,   then
notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other
law for the time being in force, the Juvenile Justice Board may, if it
thinks fit, make an order directing the juvenile to be sent to a
special home for a period of three years.
43. In view of Section 7A of the 2000 Act referred to hereinabove,
applicable to the writ applicant herein, the plea of juvenility could
be raised in any court, at any stage even after the final disposal of
the Special Leave Petition under Article 136 of the Constitution. In
the case of the writ applicant herein, his Special Leave Petition had
42
also  been dismissed by this  Court.  However,  this Court  is  still
obliged to consider the plea of juvenility taken by the writ applicant
and grant him appropriate relief. The fact that the 2000 Act has
later been replaced by the 2015 Act would make no difference.  
44. In regard to the nature of the inquiry to be conducted by the
court in determining the age under Section 7A of the 2000 Act and
Rule   12,   this   Court   in  Ashwani   Kumar   Saxena   v.   State   of
Mahya Pradesh, AIR 2013 SC 553, has held as follows:­
“25. Section 7­A, obliges the court only to make an inquiry,
not an investigation or a trial, an inquiry not under the
Code of Criminal Procedure, but under the JJ Act. The
criminal courts, Juvenile Justice Board, committees, etc.
we have noticed, proceed as if they are conducting a trial,
inquiry,   enquiry   or   investigation   as   per   the   Code.   The
statute requires the court or the Board only to make an
“inquiry”   and   in   what   manner   that   inquiry   has   to   be
conducted   is   provided   in   the   JJ   Rules.   Few   of   the
expressions   used   in   Section   7­A   and   Rule   12   are   of
considerable   importance   and   a   reference   to   them   is
necessary to understand the true scope and content of
those provisions. Section 7­A has used the expressions
“court shall make an inquiry”, “take such evidence as may
be necessary” and “but not an affidavit”. The Court or the
Board can accept as evidence something more than an
affidavit i.e. the Court or the Board can accept documents,
certificates, etc. as evidence, need not be oral evidence.
26. Rule 12 which has to be read along with Section 7­A
43
has also used certain expressions which are also to be
borne   in   mind.   Rule   12(2)   uses   the   expression   “prima
facie”   and   “on   the   basis   of   physical   appearance”   or
“documents, if available”. Rule 12(3) uses the expression
“by seeking evidence by obtaining”. These expressions in
our view re­emphasise the fact that what is contemplated
in Section 7­A and Rule 12 is only an inquiry. Further,
the age determination inquiry has to be completed and age
be determined within thirty days from the date of making
the application; which is also an indication of the manner
in which the inquiry has to be conducted and completed.
The word “inquiry” has not been defined under the JJ Act,
but Section 2(y) of the JJ Act says that all words and
expressions used and not defined in the JJ Act but defined
in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), shall
have the meanings respectively assigned to them in that
Code.
27. Let   us   now   examine   the   meaning   of   the   words
“inquiry”, “enquiry”, “investigation” and “trial” as we see
in   the   Code   of   Criminal   Procedure   and   their   several
meanings   attributed   to   those   expressions.   “Inquiry”   as
defined in Section 2(g) CrPC reads as follows:
2. (g) ‘inquiry’  means  every inquiry,  other than  a
trial, conducted under this Code by a Magistrate or
court;”
The word “enquiry” is not defined under the Code of
Criminal Procedure which is an act of asking for
information   and   also   consideration   of   some
evidence, may be documentary.
“Investigation” as defined in Section 2(h) CrPC reads
as follows:
2.   (h) ‘investigation’   includes   all   the   proceedings
under   this   Code   for   the   collection   of   evidence
conducted by a police officer or by any person (other
44
than   a   Magistrate)   who   is   authorised   by   a
Magistrate in this behalf;”
The expression “trial” has not been defined in the
Code of Criminal Procedure but must be understood
in   the   light   of   the   expressions   “inquiry”   or
“investigation” as contained in Sections 2(g) and 2(h)
of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
28. The expression “trial” has been generally understood
as the examination by court of issues of fact and law in a
case for the purpose of rendering the judgment relating to
some offences committed. We find in very many cases that
the court/the Juvenile Justice Board while determining the
claim of juvenility forget that what they are expected to do
is not to conduct an inquiry under Section 2(g) of the Code
of Criminal Procedure, but an inquiry under the JJ Act,
following the procedure laid down under Rule 12 and not
following the procedure laid down under the Code.
29. The Code lays down the procedure to be followed in
every   investigation,   inquiry   or   trial   for every   offence,
whether under the Indian Penal Code or under other Penal
laws.   The   Code   makes provisions   for   not   only
investigation,   inquiry   into or   trial   for   offences   but   also
inquiries into certain specific matters. The procedure laid
down for inquiring into the specific matters under the Code
naturally cannot be applied in inquiring into other matters
like the claim of juvenility under Section 7A read with
Rule   12   of   the   2007   Rules.   In   other words, the law
regarding the procedure  to be followed  in such inquiry
must be found in the enactment conferring jurisdiction to
hold inquiry.
30. Consequently, the procedure to be followed under the
J.J.   Act   in   conducting   an   inquiry   is   the procedure laid
down in that statute itself i.e. Rule 12 of the 2007 Rules.
45
We cannot import other procedures laid down in the Code
of Criminal Procedure   or   any   other   enactment   while
making an inquiry with regard to the juvenility of a
person, when the claim of juvenility is raised before the
court exercising powers under Section 7A of the Act. Many
of the cases, we have come across, it is seen that the
Criminal   Courts   are   still having   the   hangover   of   the
procedure of trial or inquiry under the Code as if they are
trying an offence under the Penal laws forgetting the fact
that the specific procedure has been laid down in Section
7A read with Rule 12.
31.   We also remind all Courts/J.J. Board and   the
Committees functioning under the Act that a duty is cast
on them to seek evidence by obtaining the certificate etc.
mentioned in Rule 12 (3) (a) (i) to (iii). The courts in such
situations act as a parens patriae because they have a
kind of   guardianship   over   minors   who   from   their   legal
disability stand in need of protection.
32.   “Age determination inquiry" contemplated under
Section   7A   of   the   Act   r/w   Rule   12   of   the 2007   Rules
enables the court to seek evidence and, in that process,
the   court   can   obtain   the matriculation or equivalent
certificates, if available. Only in the absence of any
matriculation   or   equivalent   certificates,   the   court need
obtain the date of birth certificate from the school first
attended other than a play school. Only in the absence of
matriculation or equivalent certificate or the date of birth
certificate from the school first attended, the court need
obtain   the   birth   certificate   given   by   a corporation or a
municipal authority or a panchayat (not an affidavit but
certificates   or documents).   The   question   of   obtaining
medical opinion   from   a   duly   constituted   Medical   Board
arises only if the above mentioned documents are
unavailable. In case exact assessment of the age cannot
46
be done, then the court, for reasons to be recorded, may, if
considered   necessary, give the benefit to the child or
juvenile by considering his or her age on lower side within
the margin of one year.
33. Once    the    court, following    the    above mentioned
procedures, passes an order; that order   shall   be   the
conclusive   proof   of   the   age   as regards such child or
juvenile in conflict with law. It has been made clear in subsection (5) or Rule   12   that   no   further   inquiry   shall   be
conducted by the court or the Board after examining and
obtaining the certificate or any other documentary proof
after   referring   to   sub­rule   (3) of   the   Rule   12.   Further,
Section 49 of the J.J. Act also draws a presumption of the
age of the juvenility on its determination.
34. Age determination inquiry contemplated under the JJ
Act and Rules has nothing to do with an enquiry under
other legislations, like entry in service, retirement,
promotion etc. There may be situations where the entry
made in the matriculation or equivalent certificates, date of
birth certificate from the school first attended and even the
birth   certificate   given   by a Corporation or a Municipal
Authority or a Panchayat may not be correct. But Court,
J.J. Board or a Committee functioning under the J.J. Act is
not expected to conduct such a roving enquiry and to go
behind   those   certificates   to examine the correctness of
those documents, kept   during   the   normal   course   of
business.   Only in   cases   where   those   documents   or
certificates are found to be fabricated or manipulated, the
Court,   the   J.J.   Board   or   the   Committee   need   to go for
medical report for age determination”.
47
45. What is discernible from the dictum laid down in  Ashwani
Kumar Saxena (supra) is that, in deciding whether an accused is
juvenile or not, a hyper technical approach should not be adopted.
While appreciating the evidence adduced on behalf of the accused
in support of the plea that he is a  juvenile, if two views are possible
on the same evidence, the Court should lean in favour of holding
the   accused   to   be   juvenile in   borderline   cases. The   inquiry
contemplated  is not  a  roving inquiry. The Court  can accept as
evidence   something   more   than an affidavit i.e. documents,
certificates etc. as evidence in proof of age. A mere opinion by a
person as to the accused looking one or two years older than the
age claimed by him (as the opinion of the head master in the
present case) or the fact that the accused told his age to be more
than what he alleges in the case while being arrested by the police
officer would not hold much water. It is the documentary evidence
placed on record that plays a major role in determining the age of a
juvenile in conflict of law. And, it is only in the cases where the
documents   or   certificates   placed   on   record   by   the   accused   in
support of his claim of juvenility are found to be fabricated or
48
manipulated, that the Court, the Juvenile Justice Board or the
Committee need to go for medical test for age determination.
46. Clause (a) of Rule 12(3)  of   the   2007   Rules  contains a
hierarchical ordering, evident from the use of the language "in the
absence whereof".   This   indicates   that   where   a   matriculation   or
equivalent certificate is available, the documents adverted to in (ii)
and (iii) cannot be relied upon. The matriculation certificate, in
other words, is given precedence. It is in the absence of a
matriculation   certificate   that   the   date   of   birth   certificate   of   the
school first attended, can be relied upon. It is in the absence of both
the matriculation and the birth certificates of the first school
attended that a birth certificate issued by the corporation,
municipal authority or panchayat could be obtained.
47. In  Shah Nawaz v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2011) 13 SCC
751, this Court, while examining the scope of Rule 12 of the 2007
Rules, has reiterated that medical opinion from the Medical Board
should   be   sought   only   when   the   matriculation   certificate   or
equivalent certificate or the date of birth certificate from the school
first attended or any birth certificate issued by a corporation or a
49
municipal authority or a panchayat or municipality is not available.
This Court had held that the entry related to the date of birth
entered in the marksheet is a valid evidence for determining the age
of   the   accused  person   so  also   the   school   leaving  certificate   for
determining the age of the appellant.
48. In   the   instant   case,   the   accused   has   not   produced   any
matriculation certificate or equivalent certificate to prove his age.
What is produced by him is only the Family Register issued under
the   U.P.   Panchayat   Raj   Act,   1947.     The   document   cannot   be
accepted as equivalent to matriculation certificate to prove the age
of   the   accused.     However,   the   evidentiary   value   of   the   Family
Register will have to be looked into in the course of the inquiry that
we may order. 
Determination of plea of juvenility at a belated stage
49.  Ideally, there should not be any dispute as to the age of a
person if the birth is registered in accordance with law and date of
birth is entered in the school records on the basis of genuine record
of   birth.   However,   in   India,   the   factors   like   poverty,   illiteracy,
50
ignorance, indifference and inadequacy of the system often lead to
there being no documentary proof of a person’s age. Therefore, in
those cases where the plea of juvenility is raised at a belated stage,
often certain medical tests are resorted to forage determination in
absence of the documents enumerated in Section 94 of the Act
2015.   The   rule   allowing   plea   of   juvenility   to   be   raised   at   a
considerably belated stage has its rationale in the contemporary
child rights jurisprudence which requires the stakeholders to act in
the best interest of the child.
50.  In Court On Its Own Motion v. Dept. of Women and Child
Development,  reported   in   2012   SCC   OnLine   Del   2774,   the
petitioners therein highlighted that how several hundred children
were languishing in the Tihar Jail because the police mentioned
them as adults in the arrest memo.  
51. The same is the story in the State of Uttar Pradesh which led
the High Court of Allahabad to pass the order in Writ Petition Public
Interest Litigation referred to above in para 6. 
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52.  Awareness about the rights of the child and correlated duties
remain low among the functionaries of the juvenile justice system.
Once a child is caught in the web of adult criminal justice system, it
is difficult for the child to get out of it unscathed. The bitter truth is
that   even   the   legal   aid   programmes   are   mired   in   systemic
bottlenecks and often it is only at a considerably belated stage of
the   proceeding   that   the   person   becomes   aware   of   the   rights,
including   the   right   to   be   differently   treated   on   the   ground   of
juvenility.
53. What needs to be kept in mind is the main object and purpose
of the Juvenile Justice Act. The focus of this legislation is on the
juvenile’s reformation and rehabilitation so that he also may have
an   opportunity   to   enjoy   as   other   children.     In  Pratap   Singh
(supra), this Court, elaborating on the objects and purpose of the
Juvenile Justice Act, made the following observations:­
"...The said Act is not only a beneficent legislation, but also
a remedial one. The Act aims at grant of care, protection
and   rehabilitation   of   a   juvenile   vis­à­vis   the   adult
criminals. Having regard to Rule 4 of the United Nations
Standard   Minimum   Rules   for   the   Administration   of
Juvenile Justice, it must also be borne in mind that the
moral   and   psychological   components   of   criminal
52
responsibility   were   also   one   of   the   factors   in   defining
a juvenile. The first objective, therefore, is the promotion of
the well­being of the juvenile and the second objective to
bring about the principle of proportionality whereby and
whereunder   the   proportionality   of   the   reaction   to   the
circumstances   of   both   the   offender   and   the   offence
including   the   victim   should   be   safeguarded..."
What is bone ossification test?
54. The famous American philosopher Mark Twain once said, “Age
is an issue of Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
But the above is not the case in criminal jurisprudence when it
comes to age. Here, age matters because law is mindful to it.
55. The bone ossification test (hereinafter “ossification test”) is a
test that determines age based on the “degree of fusion of bone” by
taking the x­ray of a few bones. In simple words, the ossification
test or osteogenesis is the process of the bone formation based on
the fusion of joints between the birth and age of twenty­five years in
an individual. Bone age is an indicator of the skeletal and biological
maturity of an individual which assists in the determination of
age. The most common method used for the calculation of the bone
age is radiography of the hand and wrist until the age of 18 years
53
beyond   which   the   medial   age   of   clavicle   is   used   for   bone   age
calculation till the age of 22 years as the hand and wrist bone
radiographs cannot be computed beyond 18 years of age as the
elongation of the bone is complete after adolescence. However, it
must be noted that the ossification test varies slightly based on
individual characteristics, therefore the ossification test though is
relevant however it cannot be called solely conclusive.
56. The 2015 Act under Section 94(2)(iii)  read with  Rule 12(3) of
the 2007 Rules provides the legislative sanction for the conduct of
ossification test or other medical age determination test available in
the absence of other documentary proof of age i.e. matriculation
certificate or birth certificate, which has to be given within 15 days
from the date of such order. The test is to be conducted by the
Child Welfare Committee (CWC). The provision mentioned herein is
the basis for determining the age of a child under the 2000 Act
which even includes a child who is a victim of crime in addition to a
child in conflict with the law.
57. In Vishnu v. State of Maharashtra, (2006) 1 SCC 283, this
Court clarified that the ossification test by the medical officer is to
54
assist   the   court   which   falls   under   the  ambit   of   medical   expert
opinion i.e., advisory in nature and not binding. However, such an
opinion cannot override ocular or documentary evidence, which has
been proved to be true and admissible as they constitute “statement
of facts”. This Court in Vishnu (supra) placed reliance on Madan
Gopal Kakkad v. Naval Dubey, (1992) 3 SCC 204, to hold that a
medical   witness   is   not   a   witness   of   fact   therefore   the   opinion
rendered by such a medical expert is merely advisory until accepted
by the Court, however, once accepted, they become the opinion of
the Court.
Margin of error principle
58. The bone ossification test is not an exact science that can
provide us with the exact age of the person. As discussed above, the
individual characteristics such as the growth rate of bones and
skeletal structures can affect the accuracy of this method. This
Court   has   observed   in Ram   Suresh   Singh v. Prabhat   Singh,
(2009) 6 SCC 681: (2010) 2 SCC (Cri) 1194, and Jyoti  Prakash
Rai v. State of Bihar, (2008) 15 SCC 223: (2009) 3 SCC (Cri) 796,
55
that the ossification test is not conclusive for age determination
because it does not reveal the exact age of the person, but the
radiological examination leaves a margin of two years on either side
of the age range as prescribed by the test irrespective of whether the
ossification test of multiple joints is conducted. The courts in India
have   accepted   the   fact   that   after   the   age   of   thirty   years   the
ossification test cannot be relied upon for age determination. It is
trite that the standard of proof for the determination of age is the
degree of probability and not proof beyond reasonable doubt. 
59.  In the aforesaid context, we may also refer to a decision of this
Court in the case of Mukarrab v. State of Uttar Pradesh, reported
in (2017) 2 SCC 210, wherein this Court has observed in para 27 as
under:­
“… Following Babloo Pasi v. State of Jharkhand, (2008) 13
SCC 133 and State of M.P. v. Anoop Singh, (2015) 7 SCC
773, we hold that ossification test cannot be regarded as
conclusive   when   it   comes   to   ascertaining   the   age   of   a
person.   More   so,   the   appellants   herein   have   certainly
crossed   the   age   of   thirty   years   which   is   an   important
factor   to   be   taken   into   account   as   age   cannot   be
determined with precision. …”
56
60. In  Arnit  Das   v.  State  of  Bihar, (2000) 5 SCC 488, it was
observed that the Court should not take a hyper­technical approach
while appreciating evidence for determination of age of the accused.
If two views are possible, the Court should lean in favour of holding
the accused to be a juvenile in border line cases. This approach was
further reiterated by this Court in Rajendra Chandra v. State of
Chhattisgarh, (2002) 2 SCC 287, in which it laid down that the
standard of proof of age determination is the degree of probability
and not proof beyond reasonable doubt.
61. In  Rishipal   Singh   Solanki   v.   State   of   Uttar   Pradesh,
(2021) SCC OnLine SC 1079, this Court observed explicitly that
Section   94   of   the   2015   Act   does   not   give   precedence   to   the
matriculation and other certificates, to determine the age of person,
since the said section only deals with the matter of procedure. This
Court held that lex non cogit ad impossibilia (law does not demand
the   impossible)   and   when   the   ossification   test   cannot   yield
trustworthy and reliable results, such test cannot be made a basis
to determine the age of the person and other available certificates
may be taken into consideration.
57
62. Similarly, in the case of  Ram Vijay  Singh v. State of  U.P.,
(2021)   SCC   Online   SC   142,   this   Court,   while   negativing   the
contention canvassed on behalf of the appellant convict therein that
the procedure as contained in Rule 12(3)(b) of the 2007 Rules now
being part of Section 94 of the 2015 Act and once the statute has
provided the ossification test as the basis for determining juvenility,
the findings of such ossification test cannot be ignored, held in
paras 15 and 16 resply as under:­
“15. We find that the procedure prescribed in Rule 12 is not
materially different than the provisions of Section 94 of the
Act   to   determine the   age   of   the   person.   There   are   minor
variations as the Rule 12(3)(a)(i) and (ii) have been clubbed
together with slight change in the language. Section 94 of the
Act   does   not   contain   the   provisions   regarding   benefit   of
margin of age to be given to the child or juvenile as was
provided in Rule 12(3)(b) of the Rules. The importance of
ossification   test   has   not   undergone   change   with   the
enactment   of Section   94 of   the   Act.   The   reliability   of   the
ossification test remains vulnerable as was under Rule 12 of
the Rules.
16. As per the Scheme of the Act, when it is obvious to the
Committee or the Board, based on the appearance of the
person,   that   the   said   person   is   a   child,   the   Board   or
Committee shall record observations stating the age of the
Child   as   nearly   as   may   be   without   waiting   for   further
confirmation   of   the   age.   Therefore,   the   first   attempt   to
determine the age is by assessing the physical appearance
of   the   person   when   brought   before   the   Board   or   the
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Committee. It is only in case of doubt, the process of age
determination by seeking evidence becomes necessary. At
that stage, when a person is around 18 years of age, the
ossification test can be said to be relevant for determining
the   approximate   age   of   a   person   in   conflict   with   law.
However, when the person is around 40­55 years of age, the
structure of bones cannot be helpful in determining the age.
This Court in     Arjun Panditrao  Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao
Gorantyal   and   Ors.     held,   in   the   context   of   certificate
required under Section 65B of the Evidence Act, 1872, that
as per the Latin maxim, lex non cogit ad impossibilia, law
does not demand the impossible. Thus, when the ossification
test cannot yield trustworthy and reliable results, such test
cannot be made a basis to determine the age of the person
concerned on the date of incident. Therefore, in the absence
of any reliable trustworthy medical evidence to find out age
of the appellant, the ossification test conducted in year 2020
when   the   appellant   was   55   years   of   age   cannot   be
conclusive to declare him as a juvenile on the date of the
incident.”
63. We are conscious of the fact that in the case on hand the
convict was subjected to medical examination after being referred to
the Medical Board. However, the report on record does not inspire
much confidence. Over and above the same, the decision in the
case of  Ram  Vijay  Singh  (supra) makes it very clear that in the
absence of a reliable and trustworthy medical evidence to find out
the age of the appellant herein, the ossification test conducted in
the year 2021 when the appellant was above 50 years of age cannot
59
be   conclusive   to   declare   him   as   a   juvenile   on   the   date   of   the
incident. This Court observed that when a person is around 18
years of age, the ossification test can be said to be relevant for
determining the approximate age of a person in conflict with law.
However,   when   the   person   is   around   40­55   years   of   age,   the
structure of bones cannot be helpful in determining the age. In
such circumstances, it will be a matter of debate as to what extent
the new ossification test report that may come on record can be
relied upon and to what extent the same would be helpful to the
appellant herein.
64. Despite all the odds against the writ applicant, we would still
like to look into the matter in the larger interest of justice. It will be
in   fitness   of   things   if   the   writ   applicant   convict   is   once   again
subjected to the ossification test at the Civil Hospital, Allahabad or
any other latest medical age determination test and such test shall
be carried out by a team of three doctors, one of whom should be
the head of the Department of Radiology. 
65. In view of the aforesaid, we issue the following directions:
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(i) We direct the Sessions Court, Agra to examine the claim of the
writ   applicant   to   juvenility   in   regard   with   law   within   one
month from the date of communication of this order;
(ii) The   concerned   Sessions   Court   shall   also   examine   the
authenticity and genuineness of the Family Register sought to
be relied upon by writ applicant convict considering that the
document   does   not   appear   to   be   contemporaneous.   This
document assumes importance, more particularly in the light
of   the   fact   that   the   ossification   test   report   may   not   be
absolutely helpful in determining the exact age of the writ
applicant on the date of incident. If the Family Register on
record is ultimately found to be authentic and genuine, then
we may not have to fall upon the ossification test report. In
such circumstances, the Presiding Officer concerned shall pay
adequate attention towards this document and try to ascertain
the authenticity and genuineness of the same. If need be, the
statements of the persons concerned i.e. from the concerned
government department may also be recorded;
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(iii) The   Sessions   Court   shall   ensure   that   the   writ   applicant
convict is medically examined by taking an ossification test or
any other modern recognized method of age determination;
(iv) The   Sessions   Court   concerned   shall   submit   its   report   as
regards the aforesaid to this Court within one month from the
date of communication of this order;
(v) The Registry is directed to forward one copy of this order to
Sessions Court, Agra;
(vi) We request the learned counsel appearing for the State to take
appropriate steps to facilitate the Sessions Court to complete
the enquiry.
66. Notify this matter after a period of four weeks along with the
report that may be received from the Sessions Court, Agra.   The
final order shall be passed after perusal of the report upon receipt
from the Sessions Court, Agra. 
………………………………………..J.
    (DINESH MAHESHWARI)
………………………………………..J.
    (J.B. PARDIWALA)
NEW DELHI;
SEPTEMBER 12, 2022
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