According to law, juveniles cannot be punished for more than three years.
Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice G.P Mittal said: “In this case, the facts would reveal that the accused juvenile suffered incarceration for over eight years, nearly three times the maximum prescribed under the Act for sending a juvenile, found to have committed an offence, to a special home (which is three years)”.
The court passed the order on an appeal filed by Ramesh challenging a trial court order of 2004, which awarded life term to him and his friend for murdering his colleague.
“The report relied on by this court, which has not been challenged by the state, indicates that he was about 14-15 years as on the date of occurrence.”
“These facts reveal an extremely disturbing picture, pointing to wholesale violation of the procedure established by law, and illegal detention of Ramesh for 5 years. This failure was systemic, because neither the police nor the prosecution, nor the counsel or even the court, all of whom had sufficient opportunity to observe the accused, even thought it appropriate to consider, let alone explore the possibility of applying for determination of the age,” said Justice Bhat.
He observed that there is a clear violation of the right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Ramesh and Subash, who was 23, after consuming liquor, had banged their colleague Mukesh’s head against a bench Nov 11, 2001. They then strangulated him to death with a pipe.
The High Court held Subash guilty.
The bench said: “The appellant (Subash) has been rightly held guilty. We do not find error or infirmity in the trial court judgement and order impugned in this appeal, accordingly, Subash’s appeal is dismissed.”
“Unfortunately, Ramesh has already spent eight years in jail far excess of the maximum period of three years, that too could have been spent by him in a special home as per section 15 (1) (g) of the juvenile Act,” the verdict said.
The bench, putting a question to itself, said: “What do we do? Should we again send Ramesh to the juvenile justice board to be dealt with or shall we end the proceedings here.”
“We are of the opinion that it would be great injustice to direct Ramesh to face an inquiry again before the board,” said the bench.
The bench, putting a stay on all the proceedings against Ramesh, directed the concerned department to quash all criminal cases lodged against him.
“Having regard to all these circumstances, this court directs the Delhi government to pay Rs.5 lakh to Ramesh within eight weeks’ time,” said verdict said, adding that Delhi government shall file an affidavit indicating compliance with these direction within ten weeks.