SC surprised over identical signatures of murder accused at age of 4, 12 years; reserves verdict



NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday wondered how a four-year-child can make a signature during his admission in Class-I in 2009, which is identical to his signature made in Class-8 when he was 12 years of age.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna termed the act as “unbelievable” and reserved its verdict on an appeal challenging a decision of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) to declare the youth as a juvenile during the commission of the offence and letting him off the hook with a milder sentence in a murder case.

“It is absolutely unbelievable. How can a four-year-old child make a signature during his admission at the school, which is identical to his signature made in Standard eight during admission at high school,” the bench observed.

Advocate Anupam Dwivedi, appearing for petitioner Rishipal Solanki, son of the victim, has challenged the Allahabad High Court order rejecting his plea against the November 11, 2020 order of JJB and sought medical examination of the accused to ascertain the actual age.

“During the commission of the offence, he was a completely grown-up person and he was around 20 years of age,” he said.

Additional Advocate General for Uttar Pradesh Sharan Thakur said that although the state has not filed the appeal against the High Court order, there appears to be a lot of discrepancies in the records presented in the case.

He said that if the accused had taken admission in the school in 2009, then he has to be in Class 5 or Class 6 and not Class 8 in 2014 unless he is so brilliant that he had got triple promotion in one class.

Thakur further pointed out that assuming that he has taken admission in high school in Class 8 in 2014, then he should have completed his class 10 in 2016-17 but instead, he completed his matriculation in 2019.

“There are a lot of discrepancies which need to be ascertained. It would be better if the court orders an ossification test of the accused to ascertain the exact age,” Thakur said.

The bench said that it appears that every record is “cooked up” and asked the counsel for the accused to first tell how a four-year-old child can take admission in Class-1.

“How can a four-year-old child take admission in Class-1? He has to be admitted to Anganwadi and not a school,” the bench said.

Advocate Saurabh Trivedi, appearing for the accused, said that in rural areas, people get their children admitted to schools for mid-day meals and denied that there are any ambiguities in the records.

He referred to judgements of the top court and said that once JJB has declared that the child was juvenile at the time of the offence on the basis of matriculation, then it should be treated as a final decision.

The bench said that the JJB also did not give detailed reasoning on declaring him juvenile at the time of the offence.

The top court said it will pass orders in the matter and asked the parties to file their written submissions within two days.

On August 27, the top court had said it is an interesting case as the accused had made the same signature at the age of four in class one and at the age of 12 in class 8 when he got into high school as it stayed the order of JJB, Baghpat declaring him juvenile.

It has stayed the operation of the order of the JJB, Baghpat dated November 11, 2020, till further orders.

Solanki has pointed out that the two identical signatures by a child, one at the age of four years made on July 2, 2009, and the other at the age of 12 years on April 3, 2014, raise serious doubts about the genuineness of school certificates as well as that of his actual age, in the true spirit of section 94 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

The plea filed through advocate Rakesh Sharma said the High Court and the courts below have failed to consider that the school admission form contains signatures of the accused when he was, purportedly, just a 4-year-old at that time.

Solanki, in his plea, said he belongs to a farmer’s family and his father and uncle (both of them murdered) had been carrying on their occupation of transporting sugarcane from farms to the sugar mill in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh with the help of a tractor and for the said purpose, they had got made two big trollies.

On May 5, 2020, at around 4 pm, Solanki’s father and uncle parked the tractor-trolley, as the same was having some mechanical problem, on the public road outside the village.

Soon some villagers along with the accused, armed with traditional weapons came to the spot asking them for removal of trollies, which eventually led to a scuffle, in which his father died on the spot, while his uncle suffered grievous injuries, leading to his death in the hospital after four days.

After the accused claimed juvenility and filed a plea in the JJB seeking to be declared as a juvenile at the time of the offence, Solanki moved an application opposing the claim.

The application was rejected by the JJB and declared the accused as a juvenile.

Solanki, thereafter, moved the Sessions court and later High Court, but his pleas were dismissed.

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