Under-age Mercedes-Benz hit & run driver CANNOT be tried as an adult: Supreme Court

On 4th April 2016, an underage driver of Mercedes-Benz sedan ran over a 32-year old in Delhi. The driver, who was four days away from turning into 18-years old, or the adult age was to be tried as an adult after the court rejected the plea. However, due to the framing of laws, the court has now said that the driver cannot be tried as an adult.

The decision by the top most court in India – the Supreme Court said that there is a “gross mistake” by the lawmakers of the Juvenile Justice Act. The law says that the minors cannot be treated as an adult in cases where no minimum sentence is mentioned. The driver filed a plea asking the court to try him as a minor but because the crime was classified as heinous, the court rejected the plea. Any person who is above 16 years old and less than 18 years old, can be tried as an adult if the crime gets classified as ‘heinous’. However, since the laws such as homicide do not have a minimum sentence, the person cannot be tried as an adult according to the law book.

The court headed by Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said that the minor would not be tried as an adult because of an “unfortunate gap” in the law. The Juvenile Justice Act, there are three categories. There are petty offences for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for up to three years, serious offences involving jail term of 3-7 years and heinous offences for which the minimum punishment is 7 years. However, there are a set of different laws that have no minimum sentences and the maximum sentence is more than seven years like homicide not amounting to murder or abetment to suicide.

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In 2016, the underage driver was with four friends in the Mercedes-Benz sedan when the accident happened. The vehicle was at a very high speed and hit the 32-years old victim who was crossing the relatively empty road at night. The victim spotted the speeding Mercedes-Benz vehicle and got confused on what to do. He tried running forward but then realized that the car is coming at very high speed.

He then tried stepping back but the vehicle hit him and the person flung in the air for several meters. The occupants of the Mercedes-Benz parked the vehicle at a secluded area and then walked to the accident spot to check the victim. They later fled the scene without revealing their identities. A few witnesses then caught the group and confronted them. The court will now try the driver as a minor person until the laws are changed and amended by the parliamentarians.