Umesh Chandra Vs. State of Rajasthan
 INSC 43 (2 April 1982)
FAZALALI, SYED MURTAZA FAZALALI, SYED MURTAZA
VARADARAJAN, A. (J)
CITATION: 1982 AIR 1057 1982 SCR (3) 583 1982
SCC (2) 202 1982 SCALE (1)335
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1987 SC1501 (2,9) RF 1991 SC1494 (7)
Rajasthan Children Act,, 1970-Material date
for determining age of delinquent-Is it date of commission of offence or date
of trial ? Indian Evidence Act 1872-S. 35-Relevance of entry in school record
for proof of age-Should the record be kept by public officer ?
The Rajasthan Children Act, 1970, provides
that any person below the age of 16 years should be presumed to be a child and
that a delinquent child should be tried by a Children's court in accordance
with the procedure laid down therein.
The appellant was charged under ss. 364 and
302, I.P.C., in connection with an occurrence that took place in Tonk district
on March 12, 1973. A preliminary objection that the Sessions Judge was not
competent to try the case of The appellant as he was a child under the
provisions of the Children Act was overruled by the trial court.
The revision filed by the appellant against
the decision of the trial court was dismissed by the High Court which held that
the Children Act was not applicable to the appellant as that Act had not been
enforced in Tonk district on the date of the occurrence. The High Court further
held that the appellant had failed to prove that he was below the age of 16
On being directed by this Court to ascertain
the actual date of birth, the High Court held that the date of birth of the
appellant was September 22, 1956; and, therefore, he was over 16 years on the
date of the occurrence. The High Court rejected the documents produced from the
first two schools attended by the appellant which showed his date of birth to
be June 22, 1957, for the reason that those documents had not been kept or made
by a public officer; it relied on an affidavit furnished by the father of tho
appellant while admitting him to the third school in which the date of birth
had been changed to September 22, 1956. The explanation of the appellant's
father that the date of birth had been changed to fulfil the requirement of age
under the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Regulations to enable the appellant to
appear in the Higher Secondary Examination at the appropriate time was not
Allowing the appeal, 584
HELD: 1. (a) The relevant date for
applicability of the Rajasthan Children Act, 1970 so far as the age of the
accused, who claims to be a child, is concerned, is the date of the occurrence
and not the date of the trial as is clear from the provisions of ss. 3 and 26
of the Act. [594 C] (b) At the time of the occurrence, the appellant was
undoubtedly a child within the provisions of the Act. [592 H] (c) The question
whether the appellant could be tried as a child if he had become more than 16
years by the time the case went up to the court, does not survive as the Act
has now been enforced in the entire State. A combined reading of ss. 3 and 26
clearly shows that the statute takes care of contingencies where proceedings in
respect of a child were pending in any court on the date on which the Act came
into force. Section 26 in terms lays down that the court should proceed with the
case but after having found that the child has committed the offence it is
debarred from passing any sentence but is obliged to forward the child to the
Children's court for passing orders in accordance with the Act. [592 H; 593 A;
593 F-G] (d) The judgment of the Sessions Judge as affirmed by the High Court
be set aside and the Additional Sessions Judge, Jaipur, be directed to try the
accused and if he gave a finding that the accused was guilty, he shall forward
the accused to the Children's court for receiving sentence in accordance with
the provisions of the Act. [594 E]
2. There is no legal requirement under s. 35
of the Evidence Act that the public or other official book should be kept only
by a public officer; all that is necessary is that the document should be
maintained regularly by a person whose duty it is to maintain the document.
[588 G; 589 C] Mohd. Ikram Hussain v. State of U.P.,  5 S.C.R. 86, 100
& Abdul Majid v. Bhargavam, A.I.R. 1963 Ker. 18 referred to.
The Rajasthan Children Act being a piece of
social legislation is meant for the protection of infants who commit criminal
offences and, therefore, its provisions should be liberally and meaningfully
construed so as to advance the object of the Act. The Children Act was enacted
to protect young children from the consequences of their criminal acts on the
footing that their mind at that age could not be said to be mature for imputing
mens rea as in the case of an adult. [524 D; 593 H; 594 A] In the instant case
there are two documents of two different schools showing the date of birth of
the appellant as June 22, 1957 and both these documents have been signed by his
father and were in existence ante litem motam. Hence, there could be no ground
to doubt the genuineness of these documents. At the time when the age of the
appellant was first mentioned in the admission form, there was absolutely no
dispute about the date of birth and there could Dot have been any motive on the
part of the parents to give a false date of birth because it was his first
admission to a school at a very early age. The school to which the appellant
was admitted enjoyed good reputation of authenticity.
585 there had been any element of suspicion,
the admission register and the scholar's register would have been corrected by
the headmistress of the school. [591 D; 590 D; 590 H] M/s. Gannon Dunkerlay
& Co. Ltd. v. Their Workmen,  3 S.C.C. 443 referred to.
3. The appellant's father has given a cogent
reason for changing the date of birth and there is no reason for not accepting
his explanation particularly because the offence was committed seven years
after changing the date of birth.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 439 of 1976.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated the 23rd April, 1976 of the Rajasthan High Court in Criminal
Revision No. 300 of 1974.
K.K. Venugopal, S.S. Khanduja, and G.C.
Mishra for the Appellant.
B.D. Sharma for the Respondent.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
FAZAL ALI, J. This appeal by special leave is directed against a judgment dated
June 29, 1974 of the Rajasthan High Court overruling a preliminary objection
taken by the accused before the Sessions Judge to the effect that the Sessions
Judge, Tonk was not competent to try the case as the accused Umesh Chandra was
a child as contemplated by the provisions of the Rajasthan Children Act, 1970
(hereinafter referred to as the 'Act') on the date of the alleged occurrence.
This Act appears to have been passed by the Rajasthan Legislature, but after
receiving assent of the President was enforced in various districts from time
to time. Under the provisions of the Act any person below the age of 16
(sixteen) would be presumed to be a child and the trial of a delinquent child
was to be conducted in accordance with the procedure laid down therein. The
objection taken by the appellant was that as he was below the age of 16 at the
time of the occurrence on 12.3.1973, he could not be tried by the Additional
Sessions Judge, Tonk or the Additional Sessions Judge, Jaipur city, to whom the
case was transferred or 17.10.73 586 The Sessions Judge overruled the objection
taken by the accused and therefore he filed a revision to the Rajasthan High
Court against the order. The High Court after considering the oral and
documentary evidence came to the conclusion that the Act was not applicable to
the appellant for two reasons-(1) that it was not brought into force in Tonk at
the time of the offence, and (2) that it was not proved by the accused that he
was below the age of 16 on 12.3.1973, the date of the occurrence. The accused
was charged for offences punishable under sections 364 and 302 of the Indian
Penal Code. Aggrieved by the order of the High Court, the appellant moved this
Court in special leave and at the time of granting special leave, this Court
directed the High Court to return a finding of fact on the actual date of birth
of the accused so that this Court may determine the applicability of the Act to
the facts of the present case.
The High Court after reappraising the entire
evidence- oral and documentary-by its Order dated 18.11.76 came to a clear
finding that the age of Umesh Chandra at the time when the offence was
committed was 16 years 5 months and 20 days and that the exact date of birth of
the appellant was proved to be 22.9.1956. After the finding of fact called for
from the High Court was sent to this Court, the appeal was placed for hearing
In support of the appeal, the learned counsel
for the appellant has assailed the finding of the High Court-that the age of
the appellant was above 16 years-and it was contended that the High Court has
based its decision on wholly irrelevant material and has also committed errors
of law in appreciating important documentary evidence.
Another point that was argued before us was
as to the application of the Act to Tonk, where the offence was committed. As,
however, the Act has now been enforced in the entire State, this question no
longer survives because where a situation contemplated by s. 26 of the Act
arises, an accused, who is found to be a child, has to be forwarded by the
Sessions Court to the Children's court which can pass appropriate sentence.
Where however proceedings against a child are pending before Sessions Judge, s.
26 of the Act enjoins a duty on the Court in which the proceeding in respect of
the child is pending on the date on which the Act is extended to the area to
act in the manner therein prescribed. In this eventuality, the Court is under
an obligation to proceed With the trial and record 587 a finding as if the Act
does not apply. But after concluding the trial and recording a finding that the
child had committed an offence, the Court cannot pass any sentence but the
Court is under a statutory obligation to forward the child to the Children's
court which shall pass orders in respect of that child in accordance with the
provisions of the Act, as if it has been satisfied on inquiry under the Act
that the child bas committed the offence. In view of this provision, s. 21
would be attracted and the Children's court will have to deal with the child
under s. 21.
Thus, the main point for consideration in
this case is as to what is the exact date of birth of the appellant, Umesh
Chandra. The High Court appears to have brushed aside the documentary evidence
produced by the appellant mainly on the ground that subsequent documents
clearly proved that the father of the accused had not correctly mentioned the
date of birth in the previous schools attended by him (accused) and later
corrected his date of birth by an affidavit which was accepted by the High
Court to be the correct date. The High Court also rejected the oral evidence
adduced by the appellant as also the horoscope produced by his father.
We agree with the High Court that in cases
like these, ordinarily the oral evidence can hardly be useful to determine the
correct age of a person, and the question, therefore, would largely depend on
the documents and the nature of their authenticity. Oral evidence may have
utility if no documentary evidence is forthcoming. Even the horoscope cannot be
reliable because it can be prepared at any time to suit the needs of a
particular situation. To this extent, we agree with the approach made by the
Coming now to the facts on the basis of which
the appellant sought protection to be tried only under the Act;
according to the testimony of the father of
the appellant he was. born on 22.6.57 and was aged 15 years 9 months on
12.3.1973-the date of the occurrence.
It is, however, not disputed that at the time
when the appellant was born, his father was posted in a small village (Dausa)
where the maternal grandfather of the appellant had lived and perhaps he was
not meticulous enough to report the birth of his children. There is nothing to
show the birth of the appellant nor any evidence has been produced on this
aspect of the matter. There is also nothing to show that the dates of birth of
the other children of 588 Gopal (the father) were registered in any Municipal
register or in chowkidar's register. We have mentioned this fact because the
High Court seems to have laid special stress and great emphasis on the
non-production of any reliable record to prove that the birth of the appellant
had been entered therein. It is common knowledge that in villages people are
not very vigilant in reporting either births or deaths and, therefore, an
omission of this type cannot be taken to be a most damaging circumstance to
demolish the case of the appellant regarding his actual date of birth.
The first document wherein the age of the
appellant was clearly entered is Ext. D-1 which is the admission form under
which he was admitted to class III in St. Teressa's Primary School, Ajmer. In
the admission form, the date of birth of the appellant has been show a as
22.6.1957. The form is signed by Sister Stella who was the Headmistress.
The form also contains the seal of the
school, DW, Ratilal Mehta, who proved the admission form, has clearly stated
that the form was maintained in the ordinary course of business and was signed
only by the parents. The evidence of Ratilal Mehta (DW 1) is corroborated by
the evidence of Sister Stella (DW 3) herself who has also endorsed the fact of
the date of birth having been mentioned in the admission form and has also clearly
stated on oath that the forms were maintained in regular course and that they
were signed by her. She has also stated that at the time when the appellant was
first admitted she was the headmistress of St. Teressa Primary School, Ajmer.
The High Court seems to have rejected this document by adopting a very peculiar
process of reasoning which apart from being unintelligible is also legally
erroneous. The High Court seems to think that the admission forms as also the
School's register (Ext. D-3) both of which were, according to the evidence,
maintained in due course of business, were not admissible in evidence because
they were not kept or made by any public officer.
Under s. 35 of the Evidence Act, all that is
necessary is that the document should be maintained regularly by a person whose
duty it is to maintain the document and there is no legal requirement that the
document should be maintained by a public officer only. The High Court seems to
have confused the provisions of sections 35, 73 and 74 of the Evidence Act in
interpreting the documents which were admissible not as public documents or
documents maintained by public servants under sections 34, 73 589 or 74 but
which were admissible under s. 35 of the Evidence Act which may be extracted as
"35. Relevancy of entry in public record
made in performance of duty An entry in any public or other official book,
register or record, stating a fact in issue or relevant fact, and made by a
public servant in the discharge of his official duty, or by any other person in
performance of a duty specially enjoined by the law of the country in which
such books, register or record is kept, is itself a relevant fact."
(Emphasis ours) A perusal of the provisions of s. 35 would clearly reveal that
there is no legal requirement that the public or other official book should be
kept only by a public officer but all that is required is that it should be
regularly kept in discharge of her official duty. This fact has been clearly
proved by two independent witnesses, viz., DW 1, Ratilal Mehta and DW 3, Sister
Stella. The question does not present any difficulty or complexity as in our
opinion the section which would assist in this behalf is s. 35 of the Evidence
Act which provides for relevancy of entry in the public record. In this
connection we may refer to a decision of this Court in Mohd. Ikram Hussain v.
State of U.P., where Hidayatullah, J. speaking for the Court, observed as
"In the present case Kaniz Fatima was
stated to be under the age of 18. There were two certified copies from school
register which show that on June 20, 1960, she was under 17 years of age. There
was also the affidavit of the father (here evidence on oath) stating the date
of her birth and the statement of Kaniz Fatima to the police with regard to her
own age. These amounted to evidence under the Indian Evidence Act and the
entries in the school registers were made ante litem motam." This topic
has been elaborately dealt with particularly in regard to the entries in School
Register and the admission forms in the case of-Abdul Majid v. Bhargavam. In
these circumstances, 590 the view of the High Court with regard to s. 35 is
plainly untenable and ss. 73 and 74 are utterly irrelevant.
Further, the High Court was of the view that
as the documents produced by the Teressa Primary School were kept in loose
sheets, no reliance can be placed on them. This fact is admitted but the
headmistress has explained that the admission forms were bound much after the
date of birth was recorded and hence it cannot be presumed that the documents
were not kept in the regular course of business.
Moreover, the School where the documents were
maintained was an English public school and the record maintained by it was
undoubtedly unimpeachable and authentic and could not be suspected or presumed
to be tampered with.
At the time when the age of the appellant was
first mentioned in the admission form, there was absolutely no dispute about
the date of birth or for that matter the exact date on which he was born and
there could not have been any motive on the part of the parents of the accused
to give a false date of birth because it was his first admission to a school at
a very early age. Further, the school to which the appellant was admitted being
a Public School enjoyed good reputation of authenticity.
In M/s. Gannon Dunkerlay & Co. Ltd. v.
Their Workmen this Court made the following observations:
"In fact, if the register had been
prepared at one sitting for purposes of these cases, the Company would have
taken care that no suspicious circumstance comes into existence and, if, by
chance, any error was committed, it could have' prepared another register in
lieu of Ext. C-1. The fact that this was not done shows that this register is
the register kept in the course of business and, hence, there is no reason to
doubt the entries made in it." These observations fully apply to the facts
of the present case because if there had been any element of suspicion in
giving the date of birth, the admission register and the Scholar's register
would have been corrected by the headmistress of the school.
591 Exts. D-1 and D-2, mentioned above, are
corroborated by subsequent documentary evidence. It appears that an 1.7.65, the
boy was admitted to 3rd standard (equivalent to 5th class) in St. Paul's
school, Jaipur after the appellant's father was transferred from Ajmer to
Jaipur. Here also the document shows that the date of birth given was the same,
Thus, consistently on two occasions, starting
from 1963 and ending in 1965, the date of birth was mentioned in the relevant
documents as 22.6.1957. This Court in Mohd. Ikram Hussain v. State of U.P.
& Ors. (Supra) has held that copies of school certificates or the affidavit
of the father constitute good proof of age, vide observations extracted
In the instant case also there are two
documents of two different schools showing the age of the accused-appellant as
22.6.57 and both these documents have been signed by his father and were in
existence ante litem motam. Hence, there could be no ground to doubt the
genuineness of these documents and the High Court committed a serious error of
law in brushing aside these important documents.
Another circumstance which weighed with the
High Court was that when the boy was admitted in St. Paul's school, no transfer
certificate appears to have been taken. This by itself is not sufficient to
dislodge the case of the appellant unless a transfer certificate was taken and
it had shown that the date of birth given there did not tally with the
documents (Exts. D-1 to D-4).
It appears that as the father of the
appellant was subsequently transferred from Jaipur sometime in June 1966 to
Dhausa and he was admitted to the Sanskrit Pathshala in Dhausa, for the first
time in this school the date of birth of the appellant was changed from 22.6.57
to 22.9.56. The explanation given by his father is that as by this time the boy
had become almost 10 years of age and as clause 10 of Chapter XVIII of the
Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education Regulations required that no candidate
could take the Higher Secondary Examination until he had attained the age of 15
years on the 1st of October of the year in which the Examination was held, he
had to give an affidavit to change this fact in order to enable his son
(appellant) to appear in the Higher Secondary Examination. This position was
not disputed by the State. The High Court seems to have made much of this
lacuna and has gone 592 to the extent of labelling Gopal Sharma, appellant's
father, as a liar having gone to the extent of making a false affidavit. Here
also, we think the High Court has taken a most artificial and technical view of
the matter. In our country, it is not uncommon for parents sometimes to change
the age of their children in order to get some material benefit either for
appearing in examination or for entering a particular service which would be
denied to a child as under the original date of birth he would be either under-
aged or ineligible.
Thus, the appellant's father has given a
cogent reason for changing the date of birth and there is no reason not to
accept his explanation particularly because the offence was committed seven
years after changing the date of birth, and, therefore, there could be no other
reason why Gopal Sharma should have gone to the extent of filing an affidavit
to change the date, except for the reason that he has given.
It was also argued that in the insurance
policy, the appellant's mother had shown his age as 10 years without giving the
exact date of birth. The age of the appellant was given as a rough estimate in
the insurance policy but as the policy was not in the name of the appellant,
nothing turns upon this fact particularly because by and large giving allowance
for a few months this way or that way the boy was about 10 years old when the
policy was taken. The High Court, therefore, was wrong in attaching too great
an importance to this somewhat insignificant fact.
For these reasons we are satisfied that these
circumstances also do not put the case of the appellant out of court.
These are the main reasons given by the High
Court for distrusting what, in our opinion, seems to be unimpeachable
documentary evidence produced by the appellant to show that his exact date of
birth was 22.6.57 and not 22.9.56 as altered by his father later.
Another question argued at the Bar was as to
what is the material date which is to be seen for the purpose of application of
the Act. In view of our finding that at the time of the occurrence the
appellant was undoubtedly a child within the provisions of the Act, the further
question if he could be tried as a child if he had become more than 16 years by
the time the case went up to the 593 court, does not survive because the Act
itself takes care of such a contingency. In this connection sections 3 and 26
of the Act may be extracted thus:
"3. Continuation of inquiry in respect
of child who has ceased to be child.
Where an inquiry has been initiated against a
child and during the course of such inquiry the child ceases to be such, then,
notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or in any other law for the time
being in force, the inquiry may be continued and orders may be made in respect
of such person as if such person had continued to be a child.
xx xx xx 26. Special provision in respect of
Notwithstanding anything contained in this
Act, all proceedings in respect of a child pending in any court in any area on
the date on which this Act comes into force in that area, shall be continued in
that court as if this Act had not been passed and if the court finds that the
child has committed an offence, it shall record such finding and, instead of
passing any sentence in respect of the child, forward the child to the
children's court which shall pass orders in respect of that child in accordance
with the provision of this Act as if it has been satisfied on inquiry under
this Act that the child has committed the offence." A combined reading of
these two sections would clearly show that the statute takes care of
contingencies where proceedings in respect of a child were pending in any court
in any area on the date on which the Act came into force.
Section 26 in terms lays down that the court
should proceed with the case but after having found that the child has
committed the offence it is debarred from passing any sentence but would
forward the child to the children's court for passing orders in accordance with
As regards the general applicability of the
Act, we are clearly of the view that the relevant date for the applicability of
the Act is the date on which the offence takes place. Children Act was enacted
to protect young children from the consequences of their 594 criminal acts on
the footing that their mind at that age could not be said to be mature for
imputing mens rea as in the case of an adult. This being the intendment of the
Act, a clear finding has to be recorded that the relevant date for
applicability of the Act is the date on which the offence takes place. It is
quite possible that by the time the case comes up for trial, growing in age
being an involuntary factor, the child may have ceased to be a child.
Therefore, ss. 3 and 26 became necessary.
Both the sections clearly point in the direction of the relevant date for the
applicability of the Act as the date of occurrence. We are clearly of the view
that the relevant date for applicability of the Act so far as age of the
accused, who claims to be a child, is concerned, is the date of the occurrence
and not the date of the trial.
The High Court has failed to take notice that
the Act being a piece of social legislation is meant for the protection of
infants who commit criminal offences and, therefore, its provisions should be
liberally and meaningfully construed so as to advance the object of the Act.
Bearing this in mind we have construed the documents in the instant case.
We, therefore, allow the appeal to the extent
that while setting aside the judgment of the Sessions Judge, as affirmed by the
High Court, we direct the Additional Sessions Judge, Jaipur, to try the accused
and if he gives a finding that the accused is guilty, he shall forward the
accused to the Children's court for receiving sentence in accordance with the
provisions of s. 26 of the Act.
H.L.C. Appeal allowed.