Primacy to be awarded to the educational certificates to determine the age of the child asper the Juvenile Justice Act. – Allahabad High Court.

When the age of the child in question is under dispute, the date of birth from the school certificates is given primary importance and only in the absence of such a certificate can the court consider the birth certificate and medical evidence asper the statutory mandate of Section 94(2) of the juvenile justice act. This was held by the two-judge bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice Bachchoo Lal and Hon’ble Justice Shamim Ahmed in the case of Vandana @ Bandana Saini And Another Vs. State of U.P. And 5 Others [Habeas Corpus Writ Petition No. – 390 Of 2021].

 The brief facts of the case are, an FIR was registered against the petitioner under sections 363,366,120B of the IPC. Asper the statement recorded under section 164 of the CrPC, the petitioner claimed her age to be 17 years. However, the FIR claims the age was 16 years and 2 months asper the school leaving certificate. Since she was a minor, the petitioner was sent in the custody of Superintendent of Government Women’s Asylum by order dated 25.12.2020 passed by Judge of the Child Welfare Committee. The petitioner has filed this writ petition in this court claiming that the order passed by the child welfare committee was perverse and beyond its jurisdiction since the petitioner was a major and cannot be treated as a juvenile.

The counsel for the petitioner submits that the actual age of the petitioner is 19 years asper the medical report. It was also claimed that the school certificate had wrongly shown her date of birth to be 02.04.2004 but in reality, the petitioner was actually a major at the time of occurrence of the alleged event. The counsel for the respondent contends that the petitioner was below the age of 18 since the school leaving certificate claimed her age to be below 18. Moreover, in her own statement recorded, she claimed her age to be 17 years. Thus, the counsel claimed that the order was not illegal since the petitioner in question is a minor.

The learned judges heard both the counsels and relied on section 94(2) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) act, 2015 to reach a conclusion. Asper this section, when the age of a person must be determined, the date of birth certificate from school must be first determined. If such a certificate is unavailable, the birth certificate from the municipal authority must be used as evidence. If both these above-mentioned certificates are unavailable, only then can the court rely on medical evidence to determine the age. Section 2(12) of the act interprets ‘child’ as any person below the age of 18. Section 37 of the act empowers the child welfare committee to pass orders for the benefit of such a child in need of care and protection.

Thus, the court ruled that, “Under the circumstances, when undisputedly petitioner is a juvenile within the meaning of Section 2(35) and is in need of care and protection within the meaning of Section 2(14), the order passed by the Child Welfare Committee under Section 37 is in exercise of powers under the J.J. Act, cannot be said to suffer from any illegality”. Thus, asper the findings afore mentioned, the court ruled that the order by the Child Welfare committee was not perverse and was well within its ambit of jurisdiction.

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