Section 20 – Special provision in respect of pending cases – Juvenile Justice (Care And Protection Of Children)

The essence of this section may be stated thus—

(i) The proceedings pending before the Juvenile Court at the commencement of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 will be continued as if this Act were not passed; and

(ii) If the Juvenile Court at the conclusion of proceeding finds the juvenile guilty of having committed the offence, it shall not itself make an order of sentence but instead forward the case to the Juvenile Justice Board constituted under the Act of 2000. The Board after making an inquiry if finds the juvenile guilty of the offence, it shall make an appropriate order against him as provided under Section 15 of the Act.

In Hari Ram v. State of Rajasthan, the Court considered the various provisions of the 2000 Act, as amended in 2006, and, in particular Section 7 A which has to be read in tendem with Section 20 as amended in 2006 and Rules 98 of the J. J. Rules, 2007. Section 7 A provides the procedure to be followed when claim of juvenility is raised before any Court.

The claim of juvenility may be raised before any Court and it shall be recognised at any stage, even after the final disposal of the case. Section 20 specially provides for the procedure which the court is required to adopt when such claim of juvenility is raised.

Section 64 of the Act deals with a situation where the juvenile in conflict with law is already undergoing sentence at the commencement of the Act while Rule 98 deals with disposal of cases of juveniles in conflict with law. The State Government or the Juvenile Board may, either suo motu or on application made for the purpose, review the case of a person’s a juvenile in conflict with law. The Court allowed the appeal and directed that the appellant be released forthwith.

The Supreme Court in Bijender Singh v. State of Haryana held that Section 20 of the Act would be applicable when a person is below the age of 18 years as on 01.4.2001. It must be shown that (i) on this date (i.e., date of coming into force of the Act) the proceedings in which the petitioner was accused was pending, and (ii) on that day he was below the age of 18 years. For the purpose of applicability of Section 20 of the J.J. Act 2000, both the aforementioned conditions are required to be fulfilled.

In Eerati Laxman v. State of Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court clarified that while calculating a person’s age, the day of his birth must be counted as a whole day and any specified age in law is to be computed as having been attained on the day preceding the anniversary of the birthday. According to the Court a legal day commences at 12 O’ clock mid-night and continues until the same hour of the following night.

Thus, when the accused was born on 10 May, 1978 the said day was to be counted as a whole day and it could not be said that he had attained the age of 16 years (now it is 18 years both for males and females) before 12 O’clock in the night of the previous day, i.e., 9th May 1994.

The offence having been committed at about 1-00 p.m. 9/5/1994 he was a juvenile at the time of offence. The impugned judgment was, therefore set aside and the matter was remitted to the Juvenile Justice Board on terms of Section 20 of the Act. The appeal was allowed with aforesaid direction.

The provisions of the J.J. Act, 2000 would be applicable to those cases initiated and pending trial/inquiry for the offences committed under the 1986 Act, provided that a person had not completed 18 years of age as on 1.4.2001. The net result is:—

(a) The reckoning date for the determination of the age of the juvenile is the date of an offence and not the date when he is produced before the authority or the Court.

(b) The J.J. Act, 2000, would be applicable in pending proceeding in any court/authority initiated under the 1986 Act, and is pending when the J.J. Act, 2000 came into force and the person had not completed 18 years of age as on 1.4.2001.

In Nasir Ali v. State of Rajasthan the appellant was a juvenile who set his wife ablaze causing her death. As per Rule 62 (2) of the Juvenile Justice Rules, the appellant was below 18 years of age on the date of incident and therefore, he could not be sentenced in view of Section 20 of the J.J. Act of 2000.

In Raju v. State of Rajasthan, there was allegation of forming unlawful assembly and attempt to murder against the petitioner. Except Photostat copies of mark-sheets no other evidence was adduced by petitioner despite opportunities provided by Court and ultimately evidence was closed on assertion that petitioner did not want to lead evidence.

Court had considered arrest memos, information furnished by the petitioner, remand form and Vakalatnama wherein age of the petitioner was shown as 18 years. Therefore, for want of legal proof mark-sheets produced by petitioner could not be treated as conclusive proof of age of the petitioner, hence order rejecting his application was proper.

In Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, the petitioner (accused) was the younger brother of the main accused who was found guilty of the offence of dowry death under Section 304-B, I.P.C. The petitioner was 17 years of age on the date of incident.

The said offence was committed prior to coming into force of J.J. Act, 2000. As the accused had completed 18 years of age before coming into force of the 2000 Act, hence he was not entitled to the benefit of both the Acts, i.e., the J.J. Act, 1986 [Section 2 (4)), and J.J. Act of 2000 (Section 20)]. The appeal was, therefore, disallowed.

In Satish alias Dhanna v. State of M.P. and others, the question involved was whether benefit of the Probation Act may be extended to pending cases under Sections 16 and 20 of the Act. This was an appeal against the conviction for offence punishable under Sections 147, 148, 302 read with Section 149, I. P. C.

The appellant had not completed 18 years of age on the date of occurrence and date of production before Court. His date of birth was 12-11-1980. This fact was fully established. Also Section 16 of the Act provides that no juvenile shall be sentenced to death or imprisonment for life or committed to prison in default of payment of fine or in default of failing to furnish security.

Section 20 provides special protection in respect of pending cases. Referring to its earlier decisions in Bhola Bhagat v. State of Bihar, and Gopinath Ghosh v. State of West Bengal, the Court held that an accused who was juvenile cannot be denied the benefit of protection of the provisions of Protection of Offenders Act.

However, the Apex Court held that at this distant point of time to refer the appellant to the Juvenile Board would not be proper. Therefore, while sustaining the conviction for the offence for which he has been found guilty, the sentence awarded is restricted to the period already under­gone. The appellant was ordered to be released from custody forthwith unless required to be in custody in connection with any other case.