The Supreme Court of India clarified that in a circumstance where the trial court itself could not arrive at a conclusive finding regarding the age of the accused, the opinion of the medical experts based on x-ray and ossification test will have to be given precedence over the shaky evidence based on school records.
The Court said “It is no doubt true that if there is a clear and unambiguous case… in favour of the juvenile accused that he was a minor below the age of 18 years on the date of the incident and the documentary evidence at least prima facie proves the same, he would be entitled for this special protection under the Juvenile Justice Act. But when an accused commits a grave and heinous offence and thereafter attempts to take statutory shelter under the guise of being a minor, a casual or cavalier approach while recording as to whether an accused is a juvenile or not cannot be permitted as the courts are enjoined upon to perform their duties with the object of protecting the confidence of common man in the institution entrusted with the administration of justice.”
“Hence, while the courts must be sensitive in dealing with the juvenile who is involved in cases of serious nature like sexual molestation, rape, gang rape, murder and host of other offences, the accused cannot be allowed to abuse the statutory protection by attempting to prove himself as a minor when the documentary evidence to prove his minority gives rise to a reasonable doubt about his assertion of minority. Under such circumstance, the medical evidence based on scientific investigation will have to be given due weight and precedence over the evidence based on school administration records which give rise to hypothesis and speculation about the age of the accused. The matter however would stand on a different footing if the academic certificates ad school records are alleged to have been with held deliberately with ulterior motive and authenticity of the medical evidence is under challenge by the prosecution”, the Court said.