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Rules for Age Determination Not Unconstitutional

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Allahabad High Court

Delhi High Court: The division bench comprising of the G. Rohini CJ and Rajiv Sahai Endlaw J. dismissed a writ petition raising issues against the procedural rules, (both the State made rules and the model rules) to be followed for determination of age of a juvenile in conflict with law. The petitioner in the present case contended violation of Article 14 on the ground that the birth certificate issued by the local body is the most valid document and therefore the same should have been given first preference while making the inquiry into the determination of age and hence the procedure prescribed under both the Model Rules and the State, which gives preference first preference to Matriculation or equivalent certificates; second preference to the date of birth certificate from the school first attended and third preference to birth certificate given by a local body. Rule 12(3) of the State Rules (Delhi Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2009) gives first preference to the date of birth certificate from the school first attended; second preference to the birth certificate given by a local body and third preference to the matriculation or equivalent certificates.

Dismissing the writ petition, the court said that the petitioner failed to show how these Rules are violative of Article 14.The court said “May be according to the petitioner, it would be more reasonable to give first preference to the birth certificate issued by the local body, however, no enactment can be struck down on the ground that the court thinks it unjustified. The legislation by the Parliament or the delegated legislation are supposed to be made keeping in view the needs of the people and what is good and bad for them. The court, therefore, cannot sit in judgment over their wisdom.

The Court also relied on Ashwini Kumar Saxena v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (2012) 9 SCC 750, in which the Supreme Court was dealing with the nature of enquiry required to be conducted under Rule 12 of the Model Rules with reference to Section 7-A of the Juvenile Justice Act. In that context, it was held:

“32. Age determination inquiry” contemplated under Section 7-A of the Act read with Rule 12 of the 2007 Rules enables the court to seek evidence and in that process, the court can obtain the matriculation or equivalent certificates, if available. Only in the absence of any matriculation or equivalent certificates, the court needs to obtain the date of birth certificate from the school first attended other than a play school. Only in the absence of matriculation or equivalent certificate or the date of birth certificate from the school first attended, the court needs to obtain the birth certificate given by a corporation or a municipal authority or a panchayat (not an affidavit but certificates or documents). The question of obtaining medical opinion from a duly constituted Medical Board arises only if the abovementioned documents are unavailable. In case exact assessment of the age cannot be done, then the court, for reasons to be recorded, may, if considered necessary, give the benefit to the child or juvenile by considering his or her age on lower side within the margin of one year.

33. Once the court, following the abovementioned procedures, passes an order, that order shall be the conclusive proof of the age as regards such child or juvenile in conflict with law. It has been made clear in sub-rule (5) of Rule 12 that no further inquiry shall be conducted by the court or the Board after examining and obtaining the certificate or any other documentary proof after referring to sub-rule (3) of Rule 12. Further, Section 49 of the JJ Act also draws a presumption of the age of the juvenility on its determination.

34. Age determination inquiry contemplated under the JJ Act and the 2007 Rules has nothing to do with an enquiry under other legislations, like entry in service, retirement, promotion, etc. There may be situations where the entry made in the matriculation or equivalent certificates, date of birth certificate from the school first attended and even the birth certificate given by a corporation or a municipal authority or a panchayat may not be correct. But court, Juvenile Justice Board or a committee functioning under the JJ Act is not expected to conduct such a roving enquiry and to go behind those certificates to examine the correctness of those documents, kept during the normal course of business. Only in cases where those documents or certificates are found to be fabricated or manipulated, the court, the Juvenile Justice Board or the committee need to go for medical report for age determination.”

The bench further clarified that the State needs to follow the procedure prescribed in the State rules, which give preference to gives first preference to the date of birth certificate from the school first attended; second preference to the birth certificate given by a local body and third preference to the matriculation or equivalent certificates. [R.K Tarun v. Union of India, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 13461 decided on 19.11.15]

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