In a fresh twist to the case of an 11-year-old girl’s rape and murder at Palsora in December last year, one of the accused has been declared juvenile in a murder case he is facing in Mohali. A Mohali court last week directed the prosecution in the murder case to separate his challan and present it before the Juvenile Justice Board.
Interestingly, in the Palsora rape-and-murder case, he is being tried as an adult in a Chandigarh court. The accused, a resident of Faizabad district in UP, was declared a juvenile following his ossification test by the Mohali health authorities and also on the basis of his date of birth recorded in his school.
There were four accused in the Palsora murder case: Sunita and Bhagat Singh, both residents of Palsora, and two alleged drug addicts who were hired to kidnap and then murder the girl. They were Raj Kumar alias Raja, a resident of Lal Pura in Rupnagar, and the accused from Faizabad.
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The Palsora victim was found murdered on December 1. Raja and his co-accused allegedly also killed Azam Khan, an ATM kiosk guard at Derabassi, on the intervening night of December 9 and 10 in a foiled robbery attempt.
The two were arrested by the Mohali police for the guard’s murder. The Chandigarh Police later brought them from Nabha jail for investigation of the Palsora murder.
The accused from Faizabad moved an application before the Mohali court on April 4, seeking juvenile status. He also requested for an ossification test. A board of doctors then conducted the test and his age was determined in the range of 17 to 19 years.
A Mohali police official was sent to his native village, Baswar Khurd, in Faizabad and met the gram panchayat president who issued a certificate, confirming that the accused was a resident of the village. The police official also visited the school at Dhurehti where the principal supplied a copy of the class VI mark-sheet of the accused where his date of birth was mentioned as July 28, 2000.
The prosecution, however, argued that after his arrest and during his medical examination, the accused had disclosed his age as 20 years. Also, the prosecution said, he was facing the trial in Chandigarh as an adult, and not as a juvenile.
However, Additional Sessions Judge Dilbagh Singh Johal ruled that the “mere fact that the accused allegedly disclosed his age as 19/20 years before the investigating officer does not conclusively prove” that he is an adult. The court held that based on his ossification test, and the certificate from school, it is evident that he was less than 18 years old on December 10, when the alleged murder was committed.
Under Section 7A of the Juvenile Justice Act, the court directed the prosecution to separate his challan and present it before the Juvenile Justice Board. The maximum punishment a juvenile can get is three years.