18 years on, HC frees lifer, says he committed murder as juvenile, Legal News, ET LegalWorld – Legal Firms

Eighteen years after a man was convicted of murder and awarded life imprisonment, the Delhi high court has now found he was a juvenile at the time of committing the offence and set aside his life imprisonment. However, it held him guilty of the crime.

The court noted the accused had spent over five years and five months in jail before his sentence was suspended in 2004, while as a juvenile the maximum period of protective custody for rehabilitation that could be awarded was three years. After being convicted by a trial court, the man had raised the plea of being a juvenile offender, leading the HC to get a bone ossification test conducted.

Why benefit of juvenility was given to convict

A bench of justices Mukta Gupta and Anish Dayal disposed of the appeal filed by the convict by granting him the benefit of the increase of the age of the juvenility to 18 years introduced by the Act of 2000.

“Considering the fact that the upper age limit cannot be taken to the detriment of the appellant and as per the lower limit, the appellant was a minor at the time of alleged incident, he is entitled to the benefit of juvenility. The appellant was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 302/452 IPC as noted above. Maintaining the conviction of the appellant for the said offences, which is not being challenged on merits before this Court, the order on sentence is set aside,” the HC noted.

“Hence, in terms of Section 94 of the J.J.Act, the age of the appellant will have to be ascertained as per the ossification test conducted and opined by the Medical Board to be between 30 to 40 years as on 18th December 2019, which makes the age of the appellant on the date of incident i.e. 6th November 1999 to be between 10 years to 20 years,” the bench noted. Since as per law the benefit of the lower end of the possible age has to go to the accused, the HC declared him to be a juvenile at the time of the crime.

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