The Supreme Court has granted interim bail to an accused who raised the plea of juvenility for the first time before it. The accused was charged under Section 302 of IPC and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

"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.," the Bench comprising of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice JK Maheshwari observed.

Advocate on Record Mr. M.P. Parthiban, Advocate, Mr. Hardik Gautam appeared for the Petitioner, while, Additional Advocate General Mr. D.S. Parmar appeared for the State-Respondent during the proceedings before the Court.

The Petitioner claimed before the Apex Court that he was approximately 16 years 7 months old on the date of the incident as he was born on 5.1.1981.

For the very first time, the Petitioner contended that he was a juvenile on the date of occurrence of the incident and therefore, his conviction and sentence are liable to be set aside. This claim was not raised before the High Court.

It was contended by the State that the claim of juvenility was raised for the first time in the Special Leave Petition.

The Apex Court observed that the claim of juvenility can be raised before any Court, at any stage, even after the final disposal of the case and if the Court finds a person to be a juvenile on the date of commission of offence, it is to forward the juvenile to the Board for passing appropriate orders, and the sentence if any passed by the Court shall be deemed to have no effect.

The Court was in agreement with the contention raised by the Additional Advocate General appearing for the State that the certificate of Akikrit Shash. High School School, Endouri, District Bhind, Madhya Pradesh relied upon by the petitioner was stated to have been issued on 17.07.2021. The said certificate did not specifically mention that the date of birth 01.01.1982 was entered at the time of the first admission of the petitioner at the primary school level.

Also, the Court added that the birth certificate issued by the Gram Panchayat indicated the date of birth of the Petitioner as 5.1.1982 and not 1.1.1982 as recorded in the school certificate.

Further, the Bench noted, "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."

"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," the Court held.

The Court further directed the Sessions Court to examine the claim of juvenility in accordance with law and submit a report to the Apex Court within a month from the date of communication of this order.

It was held by the Court that the Sessions Court would examine the authenticity and genuineness of the documents relied upon by the Petitioner considering that the documents do not appear to be contemporaneous. If the documents are found to be questionable, the Sessions Court can conduct an ossification test of the Petitioner.

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