Pratap Singh vs State of Jharkhand and Anr

Criminal Appeal No. 210 of 2005 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Cri.) No. 3749 of 2001) was filed and was decided in 2005. The appellant Pratap Singh had abducted and murdered by poisoning, in conspiracy with others, the deceased on 31-12-1998. He was arrested and produced before the CJM on 22-11-1999. In response to a petition that on the date of occurrence he was a juvenile in terms of the 1986 Act, the case was transferred to the Juvenile Court. On satisfaction about the age of juvenility on the basis of school certificate the ACJM released the appellant on bail. Aggrieved by the release the informant filed an appeal before the Additional Sessions Judge. The ASJ relied upon Arnit Das v. State of Biharand ordered a fresh enquiry on the issue of age. The appellant preferred a criminal revision before the High Court that again relied upon Arnit Das and dismissed the revision. The issue was finally agitated before the Supreme Court, which in view of conflicting rulings in Umesh Chandra v. State of Rajasthan and Arnit Das2 referred the matter to a Constitution Bench of five Judges. The Bench identified the following two questions that awaited an authoritative ruling: (a) Whether the date of occurrence will be the reckoning date for determining the age of the alleged offender as juvenile offender or the date when he is produced before the court/competent authority. (b) Whether the Act of 2000 will be applicable to the case where the proceeding is initiated under the 1986 Act and pending when the 2000 Act was enforced with effect from 1-4-2001. The judgement outlines that how the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 (2006) is not only a beneficent legislation, but also a remedial one. The Act aims at grant of care, protection and rehabilitation of a juvenile vis-a-vis the adult criminals. The judgement also make it clear that the Right of a juvenile to get his case disposed of expeditiously is a statutory as also a constitutional right.Furthermore, the right to have a fair trial strictly in terms of the Act which would include procedural safeguard is a fundamental right of the juvenile. A proceeding against a juvenile must conform to the provisions of the Act.The Hon. Court held that the relevant date for determining the age of the juvenile would be one on which the offence has been committed and not when he is produced in court.