Juvenile rapist freed on village age certificate
ByAbhinav Garg, TNN | Feb 22, 2013, 05.49 AM IST
NEW DELHI: An age certificate issued by a village panchayat has led the Delhi high court to set free a rapist on the grounds he was a juvenile. A bone ossification test conducted by the trial court had shown the accused might have been 20 years old when he committed the offence.
Justice G P Mittal cited provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules and judgments of the Supreme Court to point out that a juvenile facing trial must be subjected to a bone ossification test only if there is no other documentary material available to determine his age.
After being held guilty by the trial court, Babu was sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment and has already spent five years behind bars.
“Since the genuineness of the certificate issued by the panchayat was not disputed by the prosecution, rather it was duly verified, the ossification test conducted to determine his age passed by the trial judge was wholly irrelevant. The judge ought not to have ventured to order the bone test without first holding an inquiry whether it was genuine or not,” HC remarked ordering Chand Babu’s release.
He appealed against his conviction in the high court and argued that he was sent to jail despite being a juvenile when the offence was committed.
HC found that the trial court had taken a dim view of the age certificate issued by the ‘gaon panchayat’ and decided to conduct bone ossification test which yielded his age as 20 when he committed the crime. Faced with the bone test results, the trial judge had turned down Babu’s plea that his case be transferred to the juvenile court and went ahead to convict him.
Justice Mittal disapproved of the trial judge’s method, pointing out that investigating officer in this case had verified from the “panchayat register” that Babu’s age was few days less than 17 years when he committed the crime. Even though the name on the register was Shameem Ahmed, HC conceded the claim of the police that members of the gram panchayat had maintained that Chand Babu was the nickname of Ahmed.