Subhro Bhattacharya, Student of Law, HNLU, Raipur
Setting aside the ambiguity on age proof for an accused, the Supreme Court on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 held School Leaving Certificate as the authentic age proof of an individual. The judgment arising out of a special leave petition in the matter of Ranjeet Goshwami v. State of Jharkand and Anr is set to have important fallout on numerous petitions arising out of claims of juvenility of an accused. Holding the appellant as juvenile the two judges bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K.Sikri , said that inspite of clear guidance laid down by the apex court in the case of Ashwani Kumar Saxena v. State of M.P, the division bench of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh has erred in rejecting the school leaving certificate of the appellant as his determinate age proof without any cogent reasons and in relying on the opinion of a Medical Board to arrive at its conclusion. It is pertinent to note that in recent times there has been an ongoing debate on reducing the age ceiling for juveniles and treating them as per adults for serious crimes. The defense of juvenility is often used to secure lenient sentence for a convict, having being used by the defense counsel of 26/11 convict Ajmal Kasab. The recent judgment in the infamous Delhi Rape case where one of the accused was sentenced to a mere term of 3 years in a juvenile home has caused serious outcry among the public. The apex court upholding its previous judgment in the matter of Ashwani Kumar Saxena v. State of M.P. held that school leaving certificate of an individual should be used as the authentic age proof of an individual and the courts should resort to other measures like Ossification tests only if the school leaving certificate is not available or if there is serious doubts regarding its authenticity. While the recent debates regarding reduction of age ceiling of juvenility of an accused is set to continue, this judgment of the supreme court is set to clear the air on many conflicting points of law and judgments the courts face while determining the age of an accused.