A four-year-old boy, resident of a village located 60 km away from Bihar's capital Patna, has been accused of murder.
Alok Pandey, who is yet to join a primary school, has been charged by the police in Bhojpur district for assaulting and seriously injuring his neighbour, who died on his way to the hospital.
The case has been registered despite the fact that as per Section 82 of the Indian Penal Code, the police cannot file a criminal case against a child below the age of seven.
The boy belongs to Gyanpur Semariya village, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Barhara police. He has been named as one of the nine accused in the murder case. The other accused are his family members and the complaint was filed by their neighbour Romi Pandey.
Romi has alleged in her FIR that on May 11, a close relative of hers disconnected the electric connection of her house. When her husband Achyutanand Pandey went out to find out what was wrong, the accused, including the boy, assaulted him with lathis and iron rods, she said.
According to Romi, she was also assaulted when she tried to save her husband.
She alleged that her husband died on his way to the Ara Sadar Hospital. Romi has complained she too was assaulted when she tried to save her husband.
Incidentally, though the police have mentioned the age of the eight other accused in the case, Alok's age has not been mentioned in the FIR.
Bhojpur Superintendent of Police Rajesh Tripathy told rediff.com over the telephone that he learnt about the case from local media reports.
"I was not aware of this case earlier, but I have now asked police officials associated with the case to inquire about it," Tripathy said.
He added that if the media reports turned out to be true, "I will look into the matter and clear charges against the boy soon".
Bihar police have become notorious for their practice of charging children for serious crimes.
In April, a five-year-old school-going boy was declared a "goonda" by the Aurangabad district police during panchayat elections in the state.
The police claimed that allowing the boy to move around freely during the polls could cause rioting and lead to law and order problems for the state administration!
The boy was a resident of Kadwa village in Aurangabad district. His name was removed from police reports after the intervention of the top brass of the state police.
A few years ago, Bimal Kumari, 6, and Kamal Kumari, 8, were charged by the Bhojpur district police with assault, loot and abuse after two years of investigations.
They have been granted bail by a court that also rapped the police about its insensitivity in naming minors for criminal cases.
A court in Patna expressed shock over the case of Raj Kumar, 5, who was accused of not only assaulting a woman but also attempting to molest her. The court quashed the charges against him.
Policemen in Sasaram in Rohtas district had also booked a five-year-old boy on charges of pick-pocketing. When it was revealed that the boy was not a pickpocket, the court ordered the police official responsible for his custody to pay him compensation and apologise to him.
Rani Pandey, 6, was charged by the Bhojpur district police for attacking them and helping her father escape from police custody. Later, her name was removed from the case at the behest of the state's director general of police.