Case Study: Shilpa Mittal v. State of NCT of Delhi & Anr.

By Nishant Singh Rawat 8 Minutes Read

“In case of juvenile, an offence prescribing a maximum sentence of more than 7 years imprisonment but not providing any minimum sentence, or providing a minimum sentence of less than 7 years, would be considered under ‘serious offences’.”

Citation: Criminal Appeal No. 34 of 2020.

Date of Judgement: 9th January, 2020.

Bench: Deepak Gupta (J), Aniruddha Bose (J)

Facts:

  • Juvenile ‘X’ was being trailed under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code,1860 which is punishable with a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life or up to 10 years and fine in the first part and imprisonment up to 10 years or fine, or both in the second part. No minimum sentence is prescribed.
  • Appellant is the sister of the deceased in the motor vehicle accident.
  • The juvenile at the time of occurrence was above 16 years but below 18 years. The Juvenile Justice Board by order dated 4th June, 2016 held that juvenile ‘X’ has committed a heinous offence, and, therefore should be tried as an adult. The appeal filed to the Children’s Court was also dismissed on 11th February ,2019.

Decision of the Delhi High Court:

Court held by order dated 1st May, 2019, that since no minimum sentence is prescribed for the offence in question, the said offence did not fall within the ambit of Section 2(33) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Decision of the Apex Court:

Court disposed of the appeal and held that the Act does not deal with the 4th category of offences viz., offence where the maximum sentence is more than 7 years imprisonment, but no minimum sentence or minimum sentence of less than 7 years is provided. They shall be treated as ‘serious offences’ within the meaning of the Act till the Parliament takes any step.

Key legal points established in the case:

  • Whether an offence prescribing a maximum sentence of more than 7 years imprisonment but not providing any minimum sentence, or providing a minimum sentence of less than 7 years, can be considered to be a ‘heinous offence’ within the meaning of Section 2(33) of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015?

No

Court observed that the purpose of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is to ensure that children who come in conflict with law are dealt with separately and not like adults. Nowhere, it intended to include all offences having a punishment of more than 7 years in the category of ‘heinous offences’.

Definition of offences i.e., petty[1], serious[2], and heinous[3] does not cover one category of offences i.e., 4th category where the minimum sentence is less than 7 years, or there is no minimum sentence prescribed but the maximum sentence is more than 7 years like Section 121A and 122 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, homicide not amounting to murder, etc.

Legislation does not take into consideration the 4th category of offences which is a gap and cannot be filled by the court. Moreover, treating children as adults is an exception to the rule and normally exception has to be given a restricted meaning.

Court also referred to judgements of High Courts of Bombay[4], Patna[5], and Punjab and Haryana[6], where it was held that the category of ‘heinous offences’ cannot include offences falling within the 4th category.

So, exercising power under Article 142, court held that from the date when The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 came into force, all children who have committed offences falling in the 4th category shall be dealt under ‘serious offences’ and not under ‘heinous offences’.

  • Is the definition of ‘heinous offences’ an inclusive one?

No

Court held that the definition of ‘heinous offences’ has used the word ‘includes’ but that does not include things not mentioned in the definition. The definition of ‘petty offences’ and ‘serious offences’ also use the word ‘includes’. So, the word ‘includes’ is a surplusage and does not make any sense in the three definitions.

  • Can the meaning of the words ‘heinous offences’ be expanded by removing the word ‘minimum’ from the definition?

No

Court held that it can add or subtract words from a statute, when the intention of the Legislature is clear. When the wording of the statute is clear but the intention of the Legislation is unclear, then it cannot add or subtract words from the statute to give a meaning which the court feels fit for the scheme of things.

The language of the Section 2(33) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is clear and it prescribes a minimum sentence of 7 years imprisonment. So, the word ‘minimum’ cannot be treated as surplusage and removed from the definition.


[1] Section 2(45) “petty offences” includes the offences for which the maximum punishment under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or any other law for the time being in force is imprisonment up to three years.

[2] Section 2(54) “serious offences” includes the offences for which the punishment under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or any other law for the time being in force, is imprisonment between three to seven years.

[3] Section 2(33) “heinous offences” includes the offences for which the minimum punishment under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or any other law for the time being in force is imprisonment for seven years or more.

[4] Saurabh Jalinder Nangre & Ors. vs. State of Maharashtra, 2019 (1) Crimes 253 (Bom).

[5] Criminal (SJ)No.1716 of 2018 titled Rajiv Kumar vs. State of Bihar. Judgment dated 18.09.2018.

[6] CRR 1615 of 2018 titled Bijender vs. State of Haryana and another, judgment dated 21st May, 2018.

Nishant Singh Rawat

Contributing Editor @LegalWires A Research Scholar at the University of Delhi also graduated from the University of Delhi and Himachal Pradesh National Law University with specialization in criminal law. He is an egalitarian and strong supporter of human rights. He is a keen traveller and mountaineer. Whatever challenges the societal structure and norms, attracts his attention.

    Related Posts