Supreme Court issue guidelines on the question of when should a claim of juvenility be recognised

A larger Bench of the Supreme Court of India issued the following guidelines on the question of when should a claim of juvenility be recognised and sent for determination when it is raised for the first time in appeal or before this Court or raised in trial and appeal but not pressed and then pressed for the first time before this Court or even raised for the first time after final disposal of the case: –
(i) A claim of juvenility may be raised at any stage even after final disposal of the case. It may be raised for the first time before this Court as well after final disposal of the case. The delay in raising the claim of juvenility cannot be a ground for rejection of such claim. The claim of juvenility can be raised in appeal even if not pressed before the trial court and can be raised for the first time before this Court though not pressed before the trial court and in appeal court.
(ii) For making a claim with regard to juvenility after conviction, the claimant must produce some material which may prima facie satisfy the court that an inquiry into the claim of juvenility is necessary. Initial burden has to be discharged by the person who claims juvenility.
(iii) As to what materials would prima facie satisfy the court and/or are sufficient for discharging the initial burden cannot be catalogued nor can it be laid down as to what weight should be given to a specific piece of evidence which may be sufficient to raise presumption of juvenility but the documents referred to in The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007 (“Rule”) Rule 12(3)(a)(i) to (iii) shall definitely be sufficient for prima facie satisfaction of the court about the age of the delinquent necessitating further enquiry under Rule 12. The statement recorded under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is too tentative and may not by itself be sufficient ordinarily to justify or reject the claim of juvenility. The credibility and/or acceptability of the documents like the school leaving certificate or the voters’ list, etc. obtained after conviction would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and no hard and fast rule can be prescribed that they must be prima facie accepted or rejected. If such documents prima facie inspire confidence of the court, the court may act upon such documents for the purposes of Section 7A and order an enquiry for determination of the age of the delinquent.
(iv) An affidavit of the claimant or any of the parents or a sibling or a relative in support of the claim of juvenility raised for the first time in appeal or revision or before this Court during the pendency of the matter or after disposal of the case shall not be sufficient justifying an enquiry to determine the age of such person unless the circumstances of the case are so glaring that satisfy the judicial conscience of the court to order an enquiry into determination of age of the delinquent.
(v) The court where the plea of juvenility is raised for the first time should always be guided by the objectives of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (“2000 Act”) and be alive to the position that the beneficent and salutary provisions contained in 2000 Act are not defeated by hyper-technical approach and the persons who are entitled to get benefits of 2000 Act get such benefits. The courts should not be unnecessarily influenced by any general impression that in schools the parents/guardians understate the age of their wards by one or two years for future benefits or that age determination by medical examination is not very precise. The matter should be considered prima facie on the touchstone of preponderance of probability.
(vi) Claim of juvenility lacking in credibility or frivolous claim of juvenility or patently absurd or inherently improbable claim of juvenility must be rejected by the court at threshold whenever raised.

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