The Madras High Court Bench here has finally decided that a person who had been convicted in a murder case but later found to be a juvenile could be ordered to be released by the High Court exercising writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution.

A Division Bench comprising Justice P.P.S. Janarthana Raja and Justice Aruna Jagadeesan held that it was not necessary to refer such individuals to the Juvenile Justice Board after the High Court itself had found him to be a juvenile at the time of commission of crime.

The judgement was passed while allowing a habeas corpus petition (HCP) filed by a 30-year-old murder convict who claimed to be below 18 years of age when he committed a murder at Kadayam in Tirunelveli district on October 3, 1997. His conviction had also been confirmed by the High Court.

When the HCP came up for final hearing on September 6, the Division Bench took a view that the convict must be ordered to be released from prison forthwith on the basis of certificates produced by him to prove his age.

Thereafter, they came across a judgement passed by the Principal Seat in Chennai in a similar case where the convict was referred to the Juvenile Justice Board. Hence, the matter was listed again for hearing on September 9. However, it was not disposed of on that day too.

Finally, the judges found out that the Principal Seat had referred the matter to the Juvenile Justice Board only because the age of the convict in that case had not been determined.

They also laid their hands on a latest judgement of the High Court passed on July 1 wherein a convict was ordered to be released.

“Therefore, in our considered view, this Court has ample power under Article 226 of the Constitution to implement the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

Having found a person, who claims juvenility at the time of occurrence, is in fact a juvenile, no purpose would be served in sending him back either before the Government or before the Board for them to review and pass orders,” the judges said.