Rape & Murder: SC Upholds Conviction But Sets Aside Death Sentence Of Man Who Was Juvenile When Offence Was Committed
The Supreme Court has recently upheld the conviction of a man but set aside his death sentence in a rape and murder case on the ground that he was found to be a juvenile when the offence was committed by him.
The Court said that there would be no requirement of sending the appellant i.e., the convict to the Juvenile Justice Board or any other childcare facility or institution as he was at present more than 20 years old.
The three-Judge Bench of Justice B.R. Gavai, Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Sanjay Karol held, “The conviction of the appellant is upheld; however, the sentence is set aside. Further as the appellant at present would be more than 20 years old, there would be no requirement of sending him to the JJB or any other child care facility or institution. Appellant is in judicial custody. He shall be released forthwith.”
The Bench approved the view taken by the Apex Court in the cases of Jitendra Singh alias Babboo Singh and another vs. State of Uttar Pradesh 2013 (11) SCC 193, Mahesh vs. State of Rajasthan and others (2018) SCCOnline SC 3655, and Satya Deo alias Bhoorey vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (2020) 10 SCC 555.
Advocate Rajat Mittal appeared for the appellant while DAGs Mukul Singh and Ankita Chaudhary, and Advocate Sunny Choudhary appeared for the respondent.
The appellant via his appeals assailed the correctness of the judgment and order whereby the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Indore Bench affirmed the death sentence awarded by the Trial Court and at the same time dismissed the appeal preferred by the appellant against his conviction and sentence awarded by the Trial Court.
The appellant was charged for the offences under Sections 363 and 376(2)(i) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 5(m)/6 of the POCSO Act and Sections 302 and 201 of IPC. The Trial Court vide judgment convicted the appellant for all the offences. The appeal preferred by the appellant was dismissed by the High Court and the death reference forwarded by the Trial Court was affirmed.
The Supreme Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel noted, “This Court, therefore, has no reason to doubt the correctness of the conclusion arrived at by the Trial Court regarding the date of birth of the appellant. We, therefore, accept the report of the Trial Court and hold that the appellant was aged 15 years, 4 months and 20 days on the date of the incident.”
With regard to the aforesaid aspect, the question before the Court was what relief the appellant can be granted in view of the fact that he has been held to be a child and that too below 16 years of age under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015.
The Court observed, “… in view of the findings recorded, the appellant having been held to be a child on the date of commission of the offence, the sentence imposed has to be made ineffective. … In the present case, the appellant is held to be less than 16 years, and therefore, the maximum punishment that could be awarded is upto 3 years. The appellant has already undergone more than 5 years.”
The Court said that the incarceration of the appellant beyond 3 years would be illegal and therefore he would be liable to be released forthwith on this count.
“Present case falls under the 2015 Act as the offence itself is of the year 2017. … merits of the conviction could be tested and the conviction which was recorded cannot be held to be vitiated in law merely because the inquiry was not conducted by JJB”, the Court further said.
The Court asserted that it is only the question of sentence for which the provisions of the 2015 Act would be attracted and any sentence in excess of what is permissible under the said Act will have to be accordingly amended as per the provisions otherwise, the accused who has committed a heinous offence and who did not claim juvenility before the Trial Court would be allowed to go scot-free.
Accordingly, the Apex Court partly allowed the appeals and modified the judgment of the High Court.
Cause Title- Karan @ Fatiya v. The State of Madhya Pradesh