Published: 21st December 2019
Should juvenile sins have adult consequences? The debate is still on
The Supreme Court on November 28, 2019, emphasised that crimes committed when one is a juvenile must not be held against a person into adulthood, particularly when it comes to future job prospects
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the India nationalist movement against the British rule in pre-independence India
The Indian Supreme Court has adhered to this dictum in favour of a young man sought to be punished for his sin committed as a juvenile. But first, let’s examine the facts as widely reported in the media.
The Supreme Court on November 28, 2019, emphasised that crimes committed when one is a juvenile must not be held against a person into adulthood, particularly when it comes to future job prospects. It was observed: ‘The thrust of the legislation… is that even if a juvenile is convicted, the same should be obliterated, so that there is no stigma with regard to any crime committed by such person as a juvenile. This is with the clear objective to reintegrate such juvenile back in the society as a normal person, without any stigma.’
The judgment was rendered by a Bench of Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran while dismissing an appeal filed by the Central Government in a matter concerning employment in the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). The government had earlier denied appointment as Sub-Inspector in the CISF to Ramesh Bishnoi after taking note of a criminal complaint registered against him under Sections 354 (assault with intent to outrage the modesty of a woman), 447 (criminal trespass) and 509 (insult to outrage the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 2009. Bishnoi was a minor when the complaint was filed.
While applying for employment with the CISF, Bishnoi had disclosed that the complaint was registered. However, it was also informed that the case was later dropped for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, he was denied appointment by the authorities, prompting him to approach the Rajasthan High Court for relief.
On the High Court’s direction, the question of his appointment was reconsidered by the government. However, the authority found him unsuitable for employment in the CISF again, leading to another challenge before the High Court. A Single Bench, and thereafter a Division Bench, eventually ruled in Bishnoi’s favour, directing that his employment be activated by the Government. Aggrieved, the Central Government approached the Supreme Court on further appeal.
The Supreme Court, in turn, found that even if Bishnoi had been convicted of the IPC charges, such conviction cannot be held against him since the incident dated back to when he was minor.
While this was the case, the Court also appreciated that Bishnoi had not suppressed the fact of the criminal complaint in his application. In view of these observations, the Court dismissed the appeal and directed that Bishnoi be inducted into service. Discerning readers would have observed that even though Bishnoi was not convicted, he noted the case in his application for the job. While this judgment is not an invitation for juveniles to commit the crime, it also advises to tell the truth and shame the devil.