The Telegraph
Sunday , January 6 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sixth suspect’s age certificate to be contested

New Delhi, Jan. 5: The police will on Monday challenge the school age certificate that declares one of the December 16 rape-cum-murder accused as a minor, an officer said today.

The Juvenile Justice Board has called the police to a hearing on Monday in the case of this accused, who is lodged in a juvenile correctional home but is alleged to have been the most “brutal” among the six during the assault.

A magistrate’s court today took cognisance of the chargesheet filed against the other five accused and summonsed them to appear on January 7.

The sixth accused — described as “an introvert but very aggressive” — is 17 years and six months old, according to the certificate issued by the school in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, where he studied till Class VII.

“We’ll challenge the certificate and ask the juvenile board to form a medical board to ascertain his age,” an officer said.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that a matriculation or school age certificate should ordinarily be taken as proof of age.

On Monday, the police will also file the investigation report — the juvenile court version of a chargesheet — along with a social background report on the accused.

“The social background report will have details of his family history and peer groups and describe his lifestyle. He started drinking at an early age and was exposed to antisocial elements,” the officer said.

The police prepared the report after talking to his schoolmates, parents, friends, neighbours and relatives in Badaun, the officer said. “His family said he had been very violent and quarrelsome since childhood.”

Reform focus

Proceedings in a juvenile case take place behind closed doors and are called a “hearing” rather than a “trial”.

After going through the investigation and social background reports, the juvenile board will decide whether there is a case.

“But before the hearing, the juvenile board will appoint some of its officials to prepare a ‘social investigation report’ that will include the psychological profile of the accused and details of his counselling,” said Raj Mangal Prasad, former chief of the Delhi government’s child welfare committee.

After that, the board will hear witnesses. “The focus is on reforming the juvenile if he is found guilty. The board uses the social investigation report to decide how to reform him while protecting society from him,” Prasad said.

The maximum punishment for a juvenile, even for murder, is three years at a juvenile detention centre.

“The judge may require probation, community service, a fine, restitution — or confinement in a juvenile detention centre in case of the most serious crimes,” Prasad said.

Probation allows the juvenile to go home but he has to obey certain rules under court supervision. When a juvenile convict attains 18, the usual practice is to give him probation even if he has not served his full sentence.

The December 16 accused turns 18 in six months (if his age certificate is accepted). But, considering the nature of the crime, it remains to be seen if the juvenile board will grant him that leniency.