Mohammed Naved, a Pakistani terrorist arrested in Udhampur on Wednesday made conflicting statements about his age and claimed that he was only 16. What if he makes a statement before the court that he is a juvenile?
Former Delhi high court Judge RS Sodhi said: “Merely because he says he’s 16 means nothing. Either it must be supported by school leaving certificate or birth certificate. The ossification test can be conducted as a last resort. If he is 16 and coming to kill people, he has no excuses.”
“Everyone knows our law and they all want to take advantage of it. If the enemy is sending juveniles into the country in the hope that they’ll get lesser sentences, it is a misconception,” Justice Sodhi said.
According to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, if an accused claims that he is a juvenile, the matter has to be referred to the justice board for determination of his age.
Former director general of police, Goa, Amod Kant expressed doubts over Naved’s claim. “I have seen his picture…chances of him being a minor are slim to none. But if he makes a claim of juvenility it must be supported by documentary evidence,” he said.
Only if it is concluded that the accused is above 18, he can be tried by normal courts, otherwise he will have to be tried by the Juvenile Justice Board. No court can try a juvenile as an adult even if the person has committed a murder or rape.
Also, juveniles have to be sent to the Juvenile Justice Board even if produced before a normal court. They get bail even in non-bailable offences and can’t be jailed or given death penalty. They can only be sent to a reformatory for a maximum three years.
Asked if India would be in a conundrum should Naved’s claim be correct, Justice Sodhi said: “We are a civilised nation and if we become barbaric by twisting our own laws, then the enemy will succeed in destroying our social structure. We should not allow that but we must condemn this move of sending children to fight their war.”