For over three months now, an observation home in Bareilly meant for juveniles undergoing trial or convicted by the Juvenile Justice Board has had a 35-year-old resident. Rakesh (name changed) was shifted to the home on September 29 as a local court declared that he was a minor at the time of his alleged involvement in a case of dacoity and murder in Shahjahanpur district in 1988.
A daily wage labourer, Rakesh is married and has four children. His eldest son is 12 years old.
Rakesh is estimated to have been around 11 when the crime was committed. Bareilly Observation Home superintendent Chabinath Rai said he was lodged there on the order of the Juvenile Justice Board. “Considering his age, we keep him away from other inmates. Till now, no inmates have objected,” said Rai.
Tasneem Kausar, a member of the Juvenile Justice Board at Shajahanpur, said they were only following the norms of the Juvenile Justice Act.
The incident dates back to December 1988, when unidentified men beat up residents of a house in Shahjahanpur, fired at them and decamped with valuables. Two of the injured later died. Police arrested seven persons in the case — Jai Ram, Rakesh, Lalla Ram, Nandu, Sadhu, Nanne and Lalla.
In April 1989, Sadhu and Lalla Ram were discharged for want of proof. Rakesh’s lawyer Virendra Pal Singh Chauhan said “trial of only three persons was conducted”. On December 12, 2011, a court held Nanne, Jagdish and Rakesh guilty.
“Before the court could pronounce the sentence, I told it that Rakesh was a minor at the time of the incident. In his statement before the court earlier that year, Rakesh had mentioned his age as 34. This means he was a minor in 1988. The court did not pronounce Rakesh’s punishment, but sentenced Nanne and Jagdish to life imprisonment,” said Chauhan.
On September 28 last year, the sessions court declared that Rakesh was a minor during the incident and referred the matter to the Juvenile Justice Board.