Guwahati, April 9: An ossification (bone) test will be conducted to determine the age of Benjamin G. Momin, who was allegedly sent to jail instead of an observation home despite being a juvenile at the time of arrest.
Momin — an undertrial prisoner lodged in Guwahati Central Jail — said he was only 15 when he was arrested in January 2000.
According to him, despite being a juvenile, he was detained in jail, which is against the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.
Gauhati High Court has asked the district and sessions court, Kamrup, to get an ossification test done to decide on the plea of juvenility raised by Momin before the court.
The ossification test will be crucial to establish that he was a juvenile when arrested.
The test determines the approximate age of a person based on the fusion of joints in the body. The test may not be precise but it does provide a range of plus or minus two years that helps authenticate a person’s age.
The plight of Momin, who has spent 12 years in jail, came to light when he wrote a letter to Gauhati High Court Chief Justice A.K. Goel on December 3, 2011, claiming that gross injustice had been meted out to him.
According to Momin, he was only 15 years old when arrested and he had been languishing in jail without any education.
Taking cognisance of his letter, the high court registered a suo motu case and asked the district court to expeditiously decide Momin’s plea of juvenility.
The accused, who hails from Mendipathar in East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, was arrested from Dimapur in Nagaland, where he was studying in Assembly of God High School, in connection with a robbery and murder case registered at Boko police station in Kamrup district of Assam on November 7, 1999.
The case is pending trial in the district court since 2005.
R.S. Choudhury, who is the amicus curiae in the case, today said the high court had recently directed the trial court get an ossification test conducted on Momin to ascertain his age.
Momin, now 27, claimed that he was studying in Class VII when he was arrested. If his claim is proved correct, then according to Section 7 (A) of the Juvenile Justice Act, he will have to be released from jail.
The Juvenile Justice Act clearly mentions that a juvenile in conflict with law (who is alleged to have committed an offence and has not completed 18 years of age as on the date of commission of such offence) must be sent to an observation home and not to jail and he should be tried separately by the Juvenile Justice Board.
Choudhury said the high court had also asked the chief judicial magistrate, Dimapur, to record the statement of the headmaster of Assembly of God High School and examine the school records and send a report to the high court.
Momin had also produced a school certificate to establish that he was a juvenile at the time of his arrest.