| Gauhati High Court |
Guwahati, Sept. 6: Gauhati High Court ordered the release of a convict after he was found to be a juvenile at the time of committing the offence, instead of the usual practice of referring such cases to the Juvenile Justice Board.
“Normally this court would have asked the matter to be dealt by the appropriate court, but considering the long passage of time and period of custody, the present order has been passed,” Justice Anima Hazarika said in her order passed on September 2. The copy of the order was made available today.
Mangal Murmu was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and a fine of Rs 5,000 by the court of the additional district and sessions judge (fast-track court), Kokrajhar on August 27, 2008, despite being a juvenile at the time of committing the offence (killing a man).
According to Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, the maximum period of sentence for a juvenile accused is three years.
Murmu, however, had spent more than five years behind bars since he was in jail from the date of the judgment passed by the Kokrajhar court, which was August 27, 2008.
The Kokrajhar court had convicted Murmu under Section 304 Part II of the IPC for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
When he appealed against the lower court order in the high court, an amicus curiae (a friend of the court) brought to the notice of the high court that on the date of occurrence, the age of the accused was less than 18 years. Therefore, at that time he was a juvenile in conflict with law.
After the submission, the court asked the Kokrajhar sessions judge to conduct an inquiry to ascertain the age of the appellant as on September 1, 2004, the date of committing the crime.
After inquiry, the Kokrajhar district and sessions judge submitted a report on June 21, 2013, before the court in which it was mentioned that Murmu was a juvenile on that date and his age was 17 years two months and one day.
“Therefore, the accused appellant herein needs to be released forthwith as per provision laid down in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,” the order said.
There have been allegations against police that they often arrest juvenile delinquents without properly verifying their age and send them to jail.
The children are sent to juvenile homes only after the fact is established in court.
In May last year, the Juvenile Justice Board, Kamrup, ordered the release of an undertrial, Benjamin G. Momin, on bail.
The case of Momin, who was languishing at the Central Jail here for 12 years in gross violation of the Juvenile Justice Act, was referred to the Juvenile Justice Board after the high court’s intervention.