State of M.P v. Anoop Singh

Author: Poulomi Sen, Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, IIT Kharagpur

Clarification on age determination strategies of a juvenile rape victim: Documentary evidence vs Medical Evidence.

Court: Supreme Court of India

JURISDICTION: Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction 

CASE NO.: Criminal Appeal  No(s). 442/2010

BENCH: Hon’ble Mr. Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Uday Umesh Lalit.

APPELLANT: State of Madhya Pradesh

RESPONDENTS: Anoop Singh

DECIDED ON: 03/07/2015

Introduction

The fundamental issue of the case revolves around the age determination of a rape victim. The case is mainly concerned with the inquiry process for age determination of the rape victim, as this case is dealing with a child or juvenile in conflict with law. In order to record a finding in respect of the prosecutrix’s age it is essential to be aware of the evidences that has to be obtained and further has to be taken into consideration for obtaining conclusive proof regarding the age of the victim.

On 03.01.2003, while the victim was on her way to school, she was pulled inside by the respondent on his Ambassador car. She was further forced to smell something as a result of which she became unconscious. On regaining consciousness, she complained of getting severe pain in her private parts and thereafter she was hospitalized. Posterior to her discharge, an F.I.R was lodged successively.  After due investigation,  a charge-sheet was filed against the accused for committing offences under Section 363, 366, 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Subsequent to the trial, the accused was convicted by IIIrd Additional Sessions Judge and was punished with rigorous imprisonment and fine.

The convict challenged this in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh under Section 372(2) of Cr.P.C, 1973, where the judgment of trial court was set aside on the ground that the prosecution had failed in proving the fact that the girl was below 16 years during the happening of the incident since there was difference in date of birth mentioned in the Birth Certificate and the Certificate of the Middle School Examination and hence the convict was discharged.

Following the decision of the High Court, this Criminal Appeal was filed in the Honorable Supreme Court, challenging the decision of High Court. The Supreme Court clarified that in order to determine the age of a victim, Section 12(3) of the Juvenile Justice Rules, 2007 has to be complied with. The rule says that the age determination in every case concerning a child or juvenile in conflict with law is to be conducted by seeking evidence obtaining[1]:

  • (i) The matriculation or equivalent certificates, if available; and in the absence whereof;

(ii) The date of birth certificate from the school (other than a play school) first attended; and in the absence whereof;

(iii) The birth certificate given by a corporation or a municipal authority or a panchayat;

  • The medical opinion will be sought from a duly constituted Medical Board, which will declare the age of the juvenile or child, only in cases where either (i), (ii) or (iii) of clause (a) is absent.

It was found that the documents furnished by the prosecution were complying with the aforementioned section of Juvenile Justice Act. The Court further observed that the difference of two days in the date of birth mentioned in Birth Certificate and the Certificate of the Middle School Examination is immaterial. Hence it was concluded that the victim was 16 years old when the incident took place, as per the documents furnished. The Court directed the convict to be taken back into the custody to serve out the sentence.

Backdrop of the Case

The rudimentary issue of the case is regarding is the determination of age in cases dealing with a child or juvenile or a minor who is found to be in conflict with law.

Legal Provisions:

The statutory provisions dealing with the issue of determination of age of a minor victim are as follows:

  1. Section 12(3) of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007: Documents to be obtained for the conclusive evidence regarding the age of a minor.
  2. Section 94 of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015: Manner in which age is to determined

Significant Judicial Decisions on the issue:

With the help of the following judicial decisions, we will enlighten ourselves on the developments regarding the issue:

  1. Mahadeo S/o Kerba Maske Vs. State of Maharashtra and Anr.[2]

The court in this case held that Section 12(3) of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007 has to be followed in order to determine age of a minor rape victim. The court further adjudged that medical evidence can be sought only in case where the documents mentioned under Section 12(3)(a) of the aforementioned Act is unavailable.

  •  Lakhan Lal Vs. State of M.P[3]

In this case there was a confusion regarding determination of the age of the prosecutrix due to the lack of documents. Hence, her age was determined on the basis of ossification test. The Doctor in this case herself admitted that the age obtained after conducting ossification test cannot be always accurate as a variation of a year or so is very much possible. 

  • Jarnail Singh vs State of Haryana[4]

The Supreme Court in this case held that while determining age of a minor victim reference has to be drawn from Section 12(3) of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007. The court further opined that:

“The aforementioned statutory provision should be the basis for determining age, even for a child who is a victim of crime as there is not much difference between child in conflict with law, and a child who is a victim of crime, so far as the issue of minority is concerned.”

  • Shweta Gulati vs State Govt. of NCT of Delhi[5]

The Court acquitted the accused on account of benefit of doubt taking the following medical theory into consideration:

“The settled principle is that the ossification test is not conclusive of age determination. It is settled that it is difficult to determine the exact age of the person concerned on the basis of ossification test or other tests. 

  • Gulati Razak Mohammad vs State of Himachal Pradesh

The Supreme Court accorded with the verdict given in the case of Shweta Gulati which vividly mentions that in cases where the age of the victim cannot be determined accurately as ossification test doesn’t provide appropriate results, the accused should be set free on the account of benefit of doubt.

Factual Background

On 03.01.2003, while the victim was on her way to school, she was pulled inside by the respondent on his Ambassador car. She was further forced to smell something as a result of which she became unconscious. Thereafter, she was taken to an unascertained place. On regaining consciousness, she complained of getting severe pain in her private parts and thereafter she was hospitalized. On 10.01.2003, posterior to her discharge, an F.I.R was lodged successively after she narrated the entire incident. During the course of investigation, the investigating officer seized various items which included the victim’s clothes, birth certificate and certificate of the Middle School Examination, 2001. After due investigation,  a charge-sheet was filed against the accused for committing offences under Section 363, 366, 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Subsequent to the trial, the accused was convicted by IIIrd Additional Sessions Judge as the offences were proved beyond reasonable doubt and hence he was punished with rigorous imprisonment and fine.

The convict challenged this in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh under Section 372(2) of Cr.P.C, 1973, where the judgment of trial court was set aside on the following grounds:

  • The prosecution had failed in proving the fact that the girl was below 16 years during the happening of the incident since there was difference in date of birth mentioned in the Birth Certificate and the Certificate of the Middle School Examination.
  • The High Court presumed that the victim was above 18 years during the happening of the event, based on the ossification test.
  • Since the girl didn’t oppose to the act of the accused, she is a consenting party.

The High Court concluded that no offence can be proved against the accused and hence the convict was discharged.

Arguments advanced by the Appellant

Following arguments were put forward by the appellant in this case:

  • Undue importance was given to the trifling and insignificant difference of two days in the date of birth of the victim mentioned in her birth certificate and certificate of the Middle School Examination. This minor difference was not a sufficient and a valid ground to conclude that the victim is above the age of 18. Hence the court was not justified in delivering the verdict in favour of the accused.
  • The High Court failed to comply with the law laid regarding the determination of age in cases concerning a child or juvenile in conflict with law. The law clearly indicates that the birth certificate is the determining evidence.

Arguments advanced by the Accused

Following arguments were put forward by the accused in this case:

  • The appellant’s story was self-fabricated as the evidence put forward by the victim was contradictory to the evidence furnished by the manager of the hotel.
  • The prosecutrix was a consenting party as:
  • She had no marks of injury on her body
  • She didn’t restrict Mr. Anoop from committing the act.

Issue Raised

  • Determination of the age of the prosecutrix.

Questions Raised Before The Court

  • The central question raised before the court was regarding the age of the victim: Whether she was above or below the age of 16?
  • The next crucial question raised was whether the difference of two days in the date of birth mentioned in her birth certificate and the middle school certificate significant?

Judgement Of The Court In Brief

The honorable Supreme Court had the same opinion as the Trial Court and completely accorded with the decision given by the IIIrd Additional Sessions Judge. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the High Court on the following grounds:

  • The Supreme Court, while delivering the verdict, relied on Section 12(3) of the Juvenile Justice Rules, 2007 for determining the age of the prosecutrix.
  • The Supreme Court admitted the fact that the registration of her birth was made within 2 months after she was born. Therefore, she was not falsely shown as under-aged.
  • The High Court before relying on the ossification test should have first relied on documents as stipulated under Rule 12(3)(a). Only in cases where such evidences are unavailable, the medical evidences can be taken into account. Therefore, the ossification test is not the sole criteria for determination of the date of birth of the prosecutrix as the birth certificate which is the determining evidence was already enclosed.
  • Based on the trivial difference of two days in her date of birth mentioned in the two furnished documents, the concrete evidences vividly mentioning her date of birth cannot be discarded.

Accordingly the Supreme Court allowed the Criminal Appeal and directed the convict to be taken back into the custody to serve out the sentence.

Analysis of the Judgment

Based on the legal provisions and the landmark judgments regarding the juvenile’s age determining strategies, the Court in this case has given a very apt decision by laying more emphasis on the documents furnished by the appellant which was in consonance with Section 12(3) of Juvenile Justice Rules, 2007. The court’s decision was appropriate and justified as it was in conformity with the existing law. With regard to the victim’s determination of age, the court strictly complied with the Section 12(3) of the Juvenile Justice Rules, 2007. The court clarified the point that medical evidence can be taken into consideration only in cases where the following documents cannot be furnished:

  • The matriculation or equivalent certificates
  • The date of birth certificate from the school
  • The birth certificate given by a corporation or a municipal authority or a panchayat

The court didn’t lay emphasis on the girl being a consenting party as according to Section 375 of IPC, 1860, consent is immaterial when the victim is below the age of sixteen.


[1] Section 12(3), Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007, available at, https://ncpcr.gov.in/showfile.php?lang=1&level=1&&sublinkid=275&lid=711

[2] Mahadeo S/o Kerba Maske Vs. State of Maharashtra and Anr, (2013) 14 SCC 637

[3]  Lakhan Lal Vs. State of M.P, 2004 Cri.L.J. 3962

[4] Jarnail Singh vs State of Haryana,  (2013) 7 SCC 263

[5] Shweta Gulati vs State Govt. of NCT of Delhi, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 1044

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