Juvenile justice and atrocities against children

“Violation against Juvenile”

“Juvenile Justice and Atrocities against Children who are in Conflict with the Law” • In 14 districts….. 7 months….. 179 registered cases against juveniles. • Research study of 73 incidents by EVIDENCE. • 52 among the 73 faced police torture. • Among them, 52% are schoolchildren. • Among them, only 6 cases were considered as severe criminal cases. • 52 juveniles report that good food was served in juvenile homes. • “Officers in juvenile home were friendly,” 42 children expressed. • 41 children reported that no information was given to their parents regarding their arrest. The concept of social justice is perceived differently in different levels of society. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child qualifies children as every human being below the age of 18 years. In India, children are classified as being below the age of 14 years. We have witnessed protests and democratic struggles to conform the age limit in India to the international standard. In spite of such demands, no move has been taken in that direction. However, in the Indian legal framework, the law that deals with juveniles does conform to the international age standard. Certain issues should be dealt with legally and some should be dealt with on the basis of social justice. With this understanding, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000 was enacted to deal with children who are in conflict with the law and children who need legal care and protection. In 2006, the central government established some amendments to the act. The act aims to provide care and protection for juveniles who are in conflict with law by adopting child friendly approaches in the best interest of the child. The act further states that children who have been accused of committing an offence should not be treated or referred to as offenders, but as children who are in conflict with law. This legislation acknowledges the need for special care and treatment for these children, keeping in mind each child’s needs such health, psychological well being, educational goals, recreation, protection, and socializing within positive norms. All of these considerations should be taken in order to restore the child’s dignity and self-worth, thereby restoring him or her as a responsible citizen. This act also designates special child welfare officers in each police station to deal with these children after their apprehensions. The juvenile or child welfare officer from the nearest police station shall exercise the power of apprehension only in the cases in which a child is alleged of being involved in a serious offence (defined as an offence entailing punishment of 7 or more years of imprisonment for adults). Moreover, in dealing with these cases the child welfare officer is only required to register a FIR except in the cases where a juvenile is alleged to have committed crimes of a serious nature such as rape, murder, etc. Yet in reality, many reports reveal that police often file FIRs against children and make arrests even in petty cases. We frequently see media reports such as “arrest of children in restaurants,” “two children arrested in theft case,” “students arrested following a clash in the school,” and so on. People may argue – “do we need to pamper these children who indulge in such crimes?” or, “these children have to be given severe punishment”– They even quote some instances where children are alleged to have committed murders just for a cell phone and repayment of Rs. 100. At the same time, we often get reports of children being arrested under the National Security Act and the Goondas Act based on caste or religion-based discrimination. How much have civil society actions helped these juveniles to enjoy their basic rights? Are the provisions of the Juvenile Act implemented properly and effectively? Are the officials concerned with discharging their duties through the dictates of the Juvenile Act or the social justice base on which this legislation was enacted? Are children’s rehabilitation programs monitored and documented? The questions raised above remain unanswered. As EVIDENCE acknowledged the need for answers to these questions, we carried out an action oriented research study titled “Juvenile Justice and Atrocities against Children in Conflict with the Law” Methodology: Our EVIDENCE organization conducted this study in the month of September 2010. We collected the data on the children (below 18 years) who were arrested between the period of Jan – July 2010 in Tamil Nadu by using RTI. We received information on 179 cases registered against juveniles in 14 districts Dindigul, Madurai, Theni, Sivagangai, Ariyalur, Coimbatore, Cuddalore, Dharmapuri, Nilgiri, Perambalur, Erode, Kanchipuram, Krishnagiri, and Ramnathapuram. Our research revealed that these 179 cases had been filed against 199 children who are in conflict with law. Among them, 61 children (31%) are dalits. Based on this information, we carried out field research in above mentioned 14 districts. Five teams visited and interviewed 73 children using a questionnaire containing 62 questions. The children as well as their parents and guardians gave statements. Juveniles’ personal profile: Among the 73 juveniles surveyed, 28 were dalits (38%), 24 belong to Backward Community (33%), and 19 belong to Most Backward Community (25%). Among the 73 juveniles, 41 juveniles reside in villages and 32 reside in cities. Among the 73 juveniles surveyed, 38 (52%) are studying and 26 (36%) are working. The remaining 9 juveniles (12%) neither study nor work. Among the 26 working juveniles, 16 of them work about 8 to 12 hours per day, and 4 of them work more than 12 hours daily. Among the 25 non-studying juveniles, 22 (45%) are school dropouts. Among the 73 juveniles, 37 juveniles’ fathers work as coolies, 11 of their fathers are agri-coolies, and 5 of their fathers work in private companies. 18 juveniles (25%) live without fathers. Among them, 10 juveniles’ fathers are deceased and 8 juveniles’ fathers are separated from the family. 11 (15%) of the juveniles live without mothers. 9 of the juveniles mothers are deceased and 2 of their mothers live separately from them. 9 juveniles (12%) live without either parent. Juveniles and their alleged involvements Among 73 juveniles, 40 (55%) were allegedly involved in quarrels, 25 (34%) in cases of theft, 6 in cases of criminal intimidation, 4 (5%) in murder, and 10 in cases of eve teasing. Atrocities against Juveniles According to the law, juveniles who are alleged to be involved in non serious offences such as theft or quarrels should be identified and handed over to child welfare officers. But of the 73 juveniles surveyed, only 10 of the juveniles (14%), were handed over to child welfare officers. In the remaining 84% of cases, the police violated the JJ Act. Though the law states that the child welfare officer should handle the child (other than in cases of murder and rape) by involving the parents and preparing a report on the social background of the child, these juveniles were denied this provision. The law envisaged that a child welfare officer should be designated in every police station. But how many police stations really have a designated child welfare officer? Are they carrying out their responsibilities according to the legal provisions? …..Only our government can answer to the public. Even though the JJ Act states that the child welfare officer should inform the parents of the juvenile about the crime, only in 8 cases (11%) was an alleged offence brought to the notice of the parents. In 41 cases (56%), no details of the child’s apprehension were notified to the parents. In the D.K. Basu vs. West Bengal case, the Supreme Court of India clearly stated in its arrest guidelines that notice of arrest of an adult accused should be brought to family or friends. But in these incidents where children are accused, police have violated this ruling by neglecting to inform parents about the apprehension/arrests of their children. Violation and tortures by police: According to the Juvenile Justice Act, the police should wear uniform only while making arrests. But among the 73 respondents, 59 juveniles stated that police were in uniform while arresting them, and 49 juveniles stated that during their arrest and even when they were handed over to the justice board, police personnel were in uniform. Wearing of uniform by police personnel creates fear and establishes an unfriendly environment for the child. But in 67% of incidents, the police personnel violated this provision of the Juvenile Justice Act. Our study found that out of 73 respondents, 57 (78%) juveniles were subjected to various harassments, 34 (47%) juveniles were subjected to verbal abuse, 45 (62%) juveniles were assaulted by police, 18 (25%), juveniles were kept in custody with handcuffs, 31 (43%) juveniles were stripped and subjected to enquiry, and 6 (8%) juveniles were subjected torture which caused physical injuries. Our survey also revealed that among 73 respondents, 14 juveniles were kept in police lockup, and 23 juveniles (32%) were kept in police custody without entering the court after 24 hours of arrests made. Of the 73 cases studied, only 6 cases were serious offences. The remaining cases were of simple nature for which FIRs should not have been filed. In one case from Perambalur, for the alleged theft of a TVS 50 two-wheeler, a child was not only arrested but also faced two more two-wheeler theft cases falsely registered against him. Whenever information is received about an alleged involvement of a minor in unlawful activity, it should be brought to the notice of the child welfare officer. But nowhere was such effort taken. Instead, the police made the arrests of children on their own. We found in this study that in most cases police never reported to child a welfare officer. Juvenile home and its condition: Among the 73 respondents, 59 (81%) juveniles were kept in juvenile homes. Other juveniles were released on anticipatory bail. Even though the Juvenile Justice Act mentions that juveniles should be handed over to the Juvenile Justice Board before placing them in juvenile homes, only 36 of the 59 juveniles were handed over to the justice board. Among the 59 juveniles who were kept in juvenile homes, 42 reported that officers at the juvenile home maintained a good rapport with them. 22 juveniles reported that officers never showed discrimination against them. Only 13 juveniles disclosed that officers compelled them to perform hard labor. 52 juveniles disclosed that they were provided with good food. 42 disclosed that they were provided with hygienic water. 54 stated that they had enough fans at the juvenile home. However, 49 juveniles disclosed that they are not provided with proper medical care in the homes. Of the 73 cases studied, only in 10 cases was a conduct report submitted by the probation officer after due review. Among these 10 cases, only in 4 cases did the probation officer report that the concerned juvenile had not been involved in any criminal activities. In 6 cases, the probation officer had reported that the juveniles were involved in criminal activities. Details on few case studies: Incident 1: Vinoth, Vignesh, and Sathish Kumar, hailing from Chidamparam at Cuddalore District, revealed in their statement that Chidamparam town police had arrested them in a theft case. The police had kept them in the police station for 3 days, in violation of the JJ Act. The police stripped them and severely assaulted them with a lathe. The police tortured them by pouring chilly powder mixed water into their eyes. Then, police demanded some money from their parents. When the parents pleaded that they did not have the money demanded, the police registered 2 more false cases against the children. Following this incident, the children were kept in a juvenile home for 40 days. Incident 2: Kesavan, a 13 year old boy, resides in Ariyalur district Since Kesavan’s mother was dead and his father is separated from family, he resides with his grandmother and aunty. His aunty Kalayarasi gave a statement with our team that Kesavan was arrested by Jayankondam police in a theft case and that the police had severely assaulted and tortured him. They stripped him, held him in lock up, and abused him with filthy language. Then, they registered a FIR and handed him over to an observatory home in Trichy. Incident 3 Mahendran, hailing from Theni district, gave a statement that his son Sankarapandi was arrested by the police for simple quarrel case. They brutally assaulted him and tortured him. His son sustained injuries from this assault. He also added that police had stripped his son and tied his legs and hands. Incident 4: Seenivasan, father of 13 year old Periyannan hailing from Dharmapuri, gave a statement to our team that the police had arrested his son in a theft case. His son was severely attacked by police and sustained major injuries. The police tied both his hands and legs and assaulted him with a lathe. Incident 5: On 4.6.2010, Sivakasi police arrested three children Kalirajan (14), Palpandi (14), and Senthilkumar (13) in a theft case and severely assaulted them. Three policemen brutally attacked Kalirajan with a bamboo stick and lathe. They also tortured him by forcing a needle under his finger nails. Incident 6: 17 year old Lokeshwaran hailing from Sigagangai district, was arrested by Sivagangai police in a theft case. 4 policemen tied his hands to the ceiling and brutally assaulted him with a lathe. Then two policemen stood on his legs while another two policemen severely attacked his feet with a lathe. Many similar incidents have been inflicted on juveniles. On 24.9.2010, Supreme Court Justice R.V.Raveendran and Justice H.L.Gokhale gave a statement that even though the JJ Act was enacted 10 years ago, the Central Government had not taken any effort to effectively implement this act. They also added that though the central government was directed to join with each state government for proper implementation of this act, no action taken had been taken in that direction. When informed of the efforts of progressive states including West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Delhi, the apex court asked these states to submit a detailed report about the implementation of this act. From our study, we could find that the activities of observatory homes and the performance of the Juvenile Justice Board shows that some special attention has been given for the better implementation of the act and its provisions. We can appreciate our government in this regard. Yet some juvenile homes still function far below the legal standards. Our study also revealed that in many places juveniles were arrested and FIR were registered against them. In many cases juveniles were tortured by police. In some instances the juveniles have been produced before court. These incidents confirm that we still have much to do to fill the gaps that prevail in the juvenile justice system, in order to restore these children who are in conflict with the law to their normal dignified life. As per the juvenile justice concept and as part of their accountability to care and protect the rights of the children who are in conflict with law, the government should take measures at four levels. Firstly, the police should adhere to strict guidelines while dealing with juveniles. Secondly, efforts to improve the conditions of juveniles’ observation homes and the handling of cases by the justice board members should be standardized. Thirdly, after the juvenile’s return from juvenile home, rehabilitation activities should be taken into account and proper action should be taken for the development of the juvenile in the future. Finally, monitoring of the measures at all the three levels should be performed effectively with the involvement of civil society organizations. Recommendations • The government of Tamil Nadu should regularly undertake extensive research to review implementation and enforcement of the provisions of Juvenile Act in every district of Tamil Nadu. The findings of the research should be published as a white report. • The details of the cases filed by the police for ordinary offences, other than in cases of murder and sexual assault, should be collected and a case registered against the concerned officials and a details enquiry should be initiated in this regard. Moreover, proper explanations need to be sought from the Juvenile Justice board regarding the reasons of concerned police officers for producing juveniles for petty crimes. Proper action should be initiated against police officials who have acted against law. • Government should take proper steps to appoint a child welfare officer in each police station. Also, a monitoring committee consisting of child welfare officers, advisors, child rights activists, and educationalists should be formed at district level. • Sufficient funds should be provided in the forthcoming budget for the rehabilitation of children against whom cases have been filed. • A scheme should be formulated for the rehabilitation of the juvenile offenders by providing education in every region. • Measures should be taken for the provision of proper infrastructure facilities at the juvenile homes and for the provision of healthy food, hygienic water, and good medical facilities for the children. A monitoring committee consisting of educationalists and child rights activists should be formed in each district. • Steps should be taken to make necessary amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act so as to enable to filing of cases against erring police personnel. (A.Kathir @ Vincentraj) Executive Director