The sixth accused in the December 16 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student here, was on Monday declared a minor by a Juvenile Justice Board on the basis of his school enrolment records, thus paving the way for an inquiry against him.

The sixth accused in the December 16 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student here, was on Monday declared a minor by a Juvenile Justice Board on the basis of his school enrolment records, thus paving the way for an inquiry against him.

The juvenile’s school documents were earlier verified before the board by his former school principal, on the basis of which it declared him a minor under the Juvenile Justice Act and also turned down the police request for his bone ossification (age determination) test.

It is learnt that the Board also referred to a Supreme Court judgment last year that expounded the steps to be followed under the Act for age determination, while concluding that the accused was a minor when he purportedly committed the crime.

Although the accused would turn 18 in June, the inquiry initiated by the Juvenile Justice Board against him would continue nevertheless as per Section 3 of the Juvenile Justice Act. Section 3 reads: “Where an inquiry has been initiated against a juvenile in conflict with the law or a child in need of care and protection and during the course of such inquiry the juvenile or 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 juvenile or a child.”

Anant Asthana, a child rights lawyer, said: “If his offence is established during the inquiry, even if he becomes a major, one of the options before the Board is to keep him in a place of safety for a maximum period of three years for his reformation and mainstreaming.”

The prosecution would examine the order to ascertain whether they can challenge it in a higher court.

According to police records, the juvenile belongs to a poor family from Uttar Pradesh. While he has six siblings, his father is of unsound mind. He ran away from home and came here five years ago and initially worked at some dhabas in East Delhi.

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