Noting the large number of cases where the question of whether or not an accused is a juvenile reach right up to the Supreme Court, the apex court has said that an authentic school leaving certificate (SLC) should confirm the age, and there is no need for a medical determination of this if that document is available. The court remarked that litigation relating to the age of a juvenile accused occurred, despite earlier directions it had given on the method of determining age, under law. Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice A.K. Sikri made these remarks as the court allowed an appeal by Ranjeet Goswami, who had challenged the Madhya Pradesh High Court verdict.
The high court had considered age determined by medical tests, rather than the school-leaving certificate as the basis of its verdict. “We are of the view that no cogent reasons have been stated by the High Court to discard the school leaving certificate which was issued on April 10, 2004 by the then principal of the school. The certificate reveals the date of birth of the accused as May 5, 1991. The school leaving certificate was proved by examining the head mistress of the school. She has recognised the signatures of the principal who issued the school leaving certificate,” Justice Radhakrishnan said, writing the judgment which was delivered Thursday.
“Evidence adduced by the head mistress was not challenged,” the judgment read, “consequently, there is no reason to discard that document.” Addressing confusion over whether Ranjeet Goswami was the same person, Rajiv Ranjan Goswami, the court said the investigating officers had dispelled the confusion that Ranjit Goswami and Rajiv Ranjan Goswami were two different people, and consequently “we have to take it that the school leaving certificate produced was in respect of the appellant, which has been proved.”
“We, therefore, find no reason to reject the school leaving certificate”, the court said, adding that “If that be so,… there is no question of subjecting the accused to a medical examination by a medical board.” Setting aside the high court order, the apex court said, going by the school leaving certificate, since Goswami was a juvenile on the date of occurrence of the crime, he could be tried only by the Juvenile Justice Board. The court noted with concern the commission of a large number of crimes involving juveniles, triggering demands for lowering, from the current 18, the age at which an accused may be considered juvenile.
Ranjit Goswami was accused of committing rape, murder and tampering with evidence along with three others for the offence committed on the intervening night of April 12 and 13, 2008. Upon the submission of the charge-sheet, Goswami, June 13 that year, surrendered before the court. He moved an application before the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate contending that his date of birth was June 10, 1991, and on the date of committing the crime, he was juvenile. The matter was referred to the Juvenile Justice Board as there were two sets of evidence with regard to age — the authenticated school record, which supported the date of birth of the accused given on his school leaving certificate, and the report of a medical board that said that at the time of committing the crime Goswami was 20 years old.
The Juvenile Justice Board relied on the medical evidence, and declared that Goswami was a major at the time he committed the crime, and sent the case for trial to the session’s court. However, the sessions judge, on appeal, set aside the Juvenile Justice Board’s decision to rely on the medical determination of the age while junking the school records. In appeal, the high court restored the Juvenile Justice Board’s decision, declaring Goswami a major.