The Supreme Court has ordered the release of a man convicted for the rape and murder of a minor girl noting he has been in jail for almost 19 years despite being declared a juvenile.
A bench of justices Indira Banerjee and V Ramasubramanian said a juvenile cannot be detained in custody beyond three years according to the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, in force at the material time when the incident took place.
"The petitioner has admittedly been under incarceration in jail for about 18 years and 9 months. This is not in dispute.
"Counsel appearing on behalf of the Respondent-State seeks time to look into the case. Since there is an order of the Juvenile Justice Board passed way back in 2014, declaring the petitioner a juvenile, there can be no question of any further detention of the petitioner in custody," the bench said.
The top court directed that the petitioner shall immediately be granted interim bail on a personal bond and ordered that he report to the local police station once a week.
The apex court was told that the convict was convicted inter alia under sections 302 (murder) and 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code and imposed the punishment of death sentence.
The bench has also apprised that conviction as also the sentence was upheld by the top court.
Later, in a mercy petition made to the President, the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
The apex court was told that at the material time when the trial took place or even thereafter while proceedings writ pending before this court or even in his petition to the President, the petitioner did not claim juvenility.
"However, subsequently, the petitioner took the plea that he was a juvenile at the time when the crime was committed.
"It appears that by an order dated February 5, 2014, the Juvenile Justice Board, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, declared the petitioner had been a juvenile delinquent in conflict with the law," the bench noted.
The man was convicted by a trial court and awarded the death sentence in the 2003 murder case.
(Inputs from PTI)