NEW DELHI: A murder convict has earned the right to freedom nearly 40 years after committing the crime since he was six months short of turning 18 years old at that time.
The incident dates back to August 1980 when Banaras Singh was staying with his cousin in a hotel room in Gaya, Bihar. After he left, his cousin was found dead inside the hotel room.
Singh was arrested immediately. In 1988, a trial court in Gaya convicted him of the murder charge and sentenced him to life imprisonment. In 1998, the Patna High Court dismissed his appeal against the sentence and affirmed his conviction as well as life term.
Singh then approached the Supreme Court in 2009, and claimed that he was a juvenile at the time of commission of the crime.
Incarcerated for a period of more than 10 years since 1980, Singh finally got freedom when the Supreme Court concluded that he was 17 years and 6 months old when he committed the murder.
A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana held that Singh was entitled to the benefits of the juvenile justice law. Taking into account the fact that he had already served a long time in jail, the bench ordered that the appellant “be released forthwith, if he is not required in any other case”, instead of the matter being sent back to a juvenile court again.
Singh cited his matriculation certificate and other records to prove his age and in his plea, sought benefit under the Bihar Child Act, which was subsequently amended as per the Juvenile Justice Act.
Last year, the top court had sought a status report from the trial court which confirmed that Singh was indeed a minor when the crime took place.