NEW DELHI: A man, awarded life term for killing his cousin in 1980, got a reprieve from the Supreme Court which ordered his release from jail after finding that he was a juvenile at the time of the crime.
The top court took into account a March 27, 2019 report of Additional District and Sessions Judge of Gaya in Bihar which said that the accused was 17 years and six months of age on the date of commission of offence.
A three-judge bench of Justices N V Ramana, M M Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi, said that after taking into consideration the fact that the accused was below 18 years old at the time of offence and the law prevailing as on today, "we are of the considered view that the appellant is entitled to the benefit of juvenility".
"In view of that, there is no need to again send the matter for determination under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 by the Juvenile Justice Board.
"In view of the above, we dispose of the appeal accordingly and direct that the appellant be released forthwith, if he is not required in any other case," the bench said.
On December 13 last year, the top court had asked the Sessions Court in Gaya to determine whether the accused was a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence of murder on August 23/24, 1980 and submit a report to it.
According to the prosecution, the accused on August 23, 1980, at around 10 PM came to a hotel and asked for a room for a night.
He was accompanied by his cousin.
At about 3 AM on the intervening night of August 23/24 1980, a waiter heard sounds of screaming and informed the owner of the hotel.
The waiter and the owner of the hotel saw the accused-leaving the hotel along with his bag immediately thereafter.
The accused was apprehended and made to unlock his hotel room, where the body of his cousin was found lying in a pool of blood.
The trial court on February 17, 1988, held the accused guilty under Section 302 (murder) of IPC and sentenced him to undergo life imprisonment.
The accused challenged the order of the trial court before the high court which dismissed his appeal.
In 2010, the accused challenged the high court's dismissal order before the apex court contending that he was below 18-years of age at the time of commission of offence.
In his plea he has contended that as the applicable law at the time of the commission of the offence was the Bihar Children Act, 1970, which granted protection to all children below the age of 18 years, the trial court should have considered the accused as a beneficiary of the same.
He had produced his matriculation certificate to prove that he was below 18 years of age during the commission of the offence of murder on August 23/24, 1980.
Bihar government which challenged his appeal had contended that the accused was over 16 years of age on the date of commission of the offence and could not, therefore, be treated as a juvenile as per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986.