Delhi HC Upholds Aadhaar Card Use in POCSO Case Age Determination

LI Network

Published on: 11 September 2023 at 18:10 IST

In recent times, Indian High Courts have issued conflicting judgments regarding the validity of Aadhaar cards as evidence to establish the age of individuals involved in legal cases, be it the accused or the victim.

In a recent ruling, the Delhi High Court has upheld a decision made by a trial court to acquit an accused individual of charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) based on the Aadhaar card of the alleged victim.

This Aadhaar card indicated that the victim had reached the age of majority. The document listed the girl’s age as 21 years old, whereas her mother had claimed in a police complaint that she was 16 years old.

The trial court had opted to rely on the Date of Birth (DoB) stated on the Aadhaar card to exonerate the accused from the POCSO charges. Upon appeal, Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma of the High Court concurred with the trial court’s decision.

Although there was a school record showing a different DoB, the High Court emphasized that this information lacked supporting documentation such as a birth certificate or related documents issued by municipal or equivalent authorities. Consequently, the trial court was deemed justified in utilizing the Aadhaar card as the primary source to determine the victim’s age.

The High Court also noted that the investigating officer did not obtain any birth certificate from the victim’s school or any other official authority.

The Court cited a prior case, State NCT of Delhi v. Umesh, where an Aadhaar card had been utilized to establish the age of the victim.

As a result, the High Court dismissed the State government’s appeal against the trial court’s ruling.

The prosecution contended that the trial court had erred by relying solely on the Aadhaar card’s stated age and not invoking Section 94 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act).

According to the JJ Act, in cases where the age of a child is in doubt, it can be established using a Date of Birth certificate, a matriculation certificate, or their equivalent. If these records are unavailable, a birth certificate from a municipal or panchayat body can serve as evidence.

In cases where none of these documents are accessible, age determination can be conducted through an ossification test or a similar medical examination.

Remarkably, in the present case, the High Court pointed out that the victim had not undergone an ossification test to approximate her age, a fact taken into consideration before affirming the trial court’s decision.

The case itself involved allegations that the victim-girl had been kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and forced into marriage by the accused. The complaint was filed by the girl’s mother, although the victim herself denied having been kidnapped or sexually assaulted by the accused.

Given these circumstances, the trial court had acquitted the accused of all charges, asserting that the accused and the victim were evidently in a consensual relationship, especially since the Aadhaar card indicated she was 21 years old.

This decision has now been upheld by the High Court. The State was represented by Addition Public Prosecutor Utkarsh, while Advocates Sunita Arora and Krishan Kumar represented the respondent (accused).

It’s important to note that various High Courts in India have issued contradictory judgments on the use of Aadhaar cards as evidence for establishing an individual’s age.

For instance, the Madhya Pradesh High Court, in a ruling earlier this year, contended that there is no provision for considering Aadhaar cards as proof of age under the law.

Similarly, the Kerala High Court, in a previous year’s decision, held that the Aadhaar card is not recognized by the JJ Act as a document to prove an accused person’s date of birth. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has also made similar observations in the past.

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