published in http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgst.aspx?filename=40789
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1465 OF 2013
(@ Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No.10661 of 2010)
Ranjeet Goswami ….. Appellant
State of Jharkhand & Anr. ….. Respondents
J U D G M E N T
K.S. RADHAKRISHNAN, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. We notice with concern the commission of large number of crimes
by the juveniles at a time when there is a hue and cry to lower the
age limit of juvenile in conflict with law within the meaning of
clause (l) of Section 2 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection
of Children) Act, 2000. Claiming juvenility large number of
applications are also being filed before the criminal courts and age
determination enquiry orders passed by the Board themselves result in
several litigations right up to this Court. This case is also one
among them in spite of the various directions given by this Court as
to how to determine the age of a juvenile in conflict with law in
Ashwani Kumar Saxena v. State of M.P. (2012) 9 SCC 750.
3. The appellant herein was charge-sheeted for the offences under
Sections 376, 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code, along with three
others. The appellant, after submission of the charge-sheet,
surrendered before the court on 13.06.2008 and filed an application
before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Dumka on 17.06.2008 stating that
on the date of occurrence i.e. 12/13.04.2008 he was a juvenile since
his date of birth was 10.05.1991, as per the records kept in the
Primary School, Benagadia.
4. The CJM, Dumka forwarded the said application to the Principal
Magistrate, Juvenile Justice Board, Dumka (for short “the JJ Board”)
to conduct an appropriate enquiry and to submit a report. The
application was registered as GR Case No.577 of 2008. The appellant
preferred a petition on 18.06.2008 before the Board to examine the
Principal of Primary School, Benagadiya along with the admission
register and also to examine the person in-charge of the Head Master,
as well as the head mistress of Akmit School, Benagadia to prove his
date of birth. Application was allowed on 23.06.2008, but on the same
date, a fresh petition was filed on behalf of the respondent duly
endorsed by the APP stating that the appellant had produced a forged
copy of the admission register. Appellant examined Neela Hembrahm,
who was the Head Mistress of the School since 17.8.2006, to prove the
School Leaving Certificate issued on 10.4.2004, by the then Principal
of the School, whose signature was identified and recognized.
Applications dated 26.6.2008 and 31.7.2008 were also filed by the
appellant for medical examination.
5. The JJ Board then sought the opinion of the Medical Board and
the Board opined that the appellant was about 20 years of age on the
date of the incident. There was some confusion whether the appellant
and one Rajiv Ranjan Goswami was the same person, but it was found
otherwise, and the School Leaving Certificate produced was not
accepted. The JJ Board, however, accepted the report of the Medical
Board and passed an order on 27.3.2009, rejecting the application
holding that the appellant was not a juvenile on the date of
occurrence. JJ Board then forwarded the report to the CJM. Learned
CJM, on accepting the report, committed the case to the Sessions Court
and it was registered as Case No.132 of 2009. Accused then preferred
Criminal Miscellaneous Appeal No.71 of 2009 before the Sessions Judge,
Dumka. Learned Sessions Judge took the view that the JJ Board had not
assigned any cogent reasons for discarding the School Admission
Register and then to accept the medical report. Learned Judge also
took the view that there was conflicting evidence as to the age of the
accused, hence the benefit of doubt should go to the accused. The
appeal was accordingly allowed and the order passed by the court below
was set aside and a direction was given to recall the case from the
Sessions Court to be tried by the JJ Board.
6. The respondent aggrieved by the order, approached the Division
Bench of the High Court by way of Criminal Revision No.504 of 2009.
The Criminal Revision was allowed and the order passed by the JJ Board
was restored, setting aside the order dated 30.05.2009, passed by the
Sessions Judge, Dumka.
7. Shri Shankar Narayanan, learned counsel appearing for the
appellant submitted that the High Court has committed an error in
reversing the judgment of the Sessions Judge without examining the
correctness or otherwise on the school admission register, which will
indicate that his date of birth is 10.05.1991 and hence a juvenile on
the date of occurrence i.e. 12/13-04-2008. Learned counsel also
submitted that the admission register was properly proved through the
head mistress of the school and there is no reason to discard the
same. Learned counsel submitted that the question of accepting the
report of the medical board arises only if the school leaving
certificate is discarded by stating cogent reasons.
8. Shri Barun Kumar Sinha, learned counsel appearing for the
respondent, on the other hand, submitted that the High Court has
rightly accepted the report of the medical board which indicated that
the accused was not a juvenile on the date of occurrence. Learned
counsel pointed out that the medical board has assessed the age of the
accused as 20 years on the date of occurrence i.e. 12/13-04-2008.
Learned counsel also submitted that there was some confusion with
regard to the documents produced, one document showed that the date of
birth of one Rajiv Ranjan Goswami as 10.04.1990 though the appellant’s
date of birth was shown as 10.05.1991. It is due to that confusion
the matter was referred to the medical board and medical board, in
turn, opined that the age of the accused was 20 years on the date of
9. We are of the view that no cogent reasons have been stated by
the High court to discard the school leaving certificate which was
issued on 10.04.2004 by the then Principal of the school. The
certificate reveals the date of birth of the accused as 10.05.1991.
The school leaving certificate was proved by examining the head
mistress of the school. She has recognized the signatures of the
principal who issued the school leaving certificate. The evidence
adduced by the head mistress was not challenged. Consequently, there
is no reason to discard that document. Further, we notice that there
was some confusion as to whether the appellant, whose name is Ranjeet
Goswami is the same person Rajiv Ranjan Goswami. The investigating
officer’s report indicates that they are different persons.
Consequently we have to take it that the school leaving certificate
produced was in respect of the appellant which has been proved.
10. We, therefore, find no reason to reject the school leaving
certificate. If that be so, as per the ratio laid down in Ashwani
Kumar Saxena (supra) there is no question of subjecting the accused to
a medical examination by a medical board. Going by the school leaving
certificate since the appellant was a juvenile on the date of
occurrence, he can be tried only by the JJ Board. Consequently, the
order passed by the High Court is set aside and that of the Sessions
Judge, Dumka is restored. The appeal is allowed, as stated above.
September 18, 2013