According to a poignant story reported in the Times of India, the juvenile justice board court in Pilibhit, UP, a 53 year old man was sentenced to three years of community work without pay or leave. He stood amongst the juveniles awaiting his turn. He looked sheepishly around him as he was the oldest of the lot and felt out of place. This man had waited for 38 years. In 1980 he had been booked for murder. Earlier this week the board quickly read through the details of the case and he was ordered to clean the district hospital and the post-mortem house for three years. This work he had to do without payment, holiday or even lunch break for three years.
At the age of 15 he had stabbed a 40 year old man on December 11, 1980. The victim had succumbed to his injuries after nine days in hospital. He was tried as an adult convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the local court in 1982. He had spent 5 months and 15 days in jail and then got a bail. Once out of jail he made a living by selling vegetables. Three years later he married and settled down in life. He had three daughters and three sons. The boys have done well and one is working in Saudi Arabia.
In the meantime the case files moved in various courts. Following an appeal in the Allahabad high court, the trial court was asked to hear the ‘minor’ appellant on the question of sentence in 2012. As the High Court had observed that he was eligible for the benefit of the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, his case was transferred to the JJ board. The court thus began hearing the case of the oldest ‘juvenile’ aged 53.
A criminal lawyer at Pilibhit, Avdesh Chandra Mishra observed, ‘The judgment is unique and the first of its kind in the area. It enshrines the inherent objectives of the judicial system to mend criminals in real senses by sentencing them to community work.’
However the accused is far from happy and according to his lawyer the judgment is being studied closely so that they can go for an appeal as the judgment did not make any provision for compensation, weekly holiday or lunch break during the three years given to him.