Claim of Juvenility I

A claim of juvenility may be raised at any stage of a criminal proceeding, even after a final disposal. An application claiming juvenility could be made either before Court or JJ Board. It is neither feasible nor desirable to lay down an abstract formula to determine age of a person. It has to be on basis of material on record and on appreciation of evidence adduced by parties. Court has observed, a hyper-technical approach should not be adopted. If two views are possible on same evidence, Court should lean in favor of holding accused to be a juvenile in borderline cases. However, Court should ensure JJ Act, 2015 is not misused by persons to escape punishment after having committed serious offences.

An ossification test cannot be sole criterion for age determination and a mechanical view regarding age of a person cannot be adopted solely on basis of a medical opinion by radiological examination. Such evidence is not conclusive evidence but only a very useful guiding factor to be considered in absence of documents mentioned in Section 94(2) of JJ Act, 2015. When determination of age is on basis of evidence such as school records, same would have to be considered as per Section 35 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 inasmuch as any public or official document maintained in discharge of official duty would have greater credibility than private documents. Any document which is in consonance with public documents, such as matriculation certificates, could be accepted by Court or JJ Board provided such public documents is credible and authentic as per provisions of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Hon’ble Justice B.V. Nagarathna, Rishipal Singh Solanki v. State of Uttar Pradesh, [Criminal Appeal No. 1240 of 2021].