Inmates allege humiliation and physical assault by the duo

Pursuant to a Juvenile Justice Board directive, a case was registered against the medical officer and a male nurse of the Government-run Observation Home for Boys-2 at Kingsway Camp in New Delhi on Monday following allegations by some inmates that they were humiliated and physically assaulted by the duo.

“We have received the order and a case is being registered at the Mukherjee Nagar police station today (Monday),” said an area police officer, adding that the observation home staff and officials would be examined and their statements recorded.

The matter was brought to the notice of the JJB (Kingsway Camp) by some children who alleged that they were stripped, forced to kneel down and beaten up for denying any history of drug abuse. Issuing orders for their replacement, the Board directed the police to register a case against the doctor and the male nurse.

The Board, for the first time, also laid down guidelines for medical examination of children staying at observation homes. In its order, the Board directed that in future, the assessment of children regarding any possible drug abuse shall be carried out at the Institute of Human Behaviour & Allied Sciences; and that the examination of children at their first reception in the observation home will be done by the medical officer in the presence of juvenile welfare officer and all due care would be exercised to ensure protection of their right to privacy and dignity. The home superintendent will from now on arrange for a stretcher in the medical room where the juveniles would lie down at the time of medical examination to avoid any discomfort or embarrassment to them; and that complete privacy would be ensured, with only the doctor being present during the medical examination.

“Apart from general guidelines, there were earlier no specific instructions for medical examination of children at observation homes. The world over, juvenile institutions have already developed such guidelines for child rights protection. Indian institutions have a lot of catching up to do in this regard,” said Bharti Ali of non-government organisation HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.

Ms. Ali said: “I do not know whether the allegations are true or not, but a proper system for medical examination would have averted instances of cruelty and abuse at observation homes, giving little room for any accusations against the officials. It would benefit both the children and the institution.”

Child rights lawyer Anant Kumar Asthana said: “Law has zero tolerance for causing suffering to children, be it physical or emotional. Juveniles in conflict with law are prone to such situations due to the stigma attached to them, more so while they are in custodial institutions. We need to make efforts to eliminate the stigma and the contempt towards such children in the minds and actions of duty holders. It is equally important to take judicial notice of such incidents.”

It is learnt that the matter had earlier been brought before another Board at Delhi Gate, but it had for some reasons excused itself.

For his part, the accused doctor claimed it was for the first time in his 30-year-long career that he had faced such allegations. “I have examined hundreds of children. As a welfare measure, we offer them treatment as and when necessary. We assess them, and ascertaining addiction to drugs is part of the exercise to ensure that those in need are extended necessary intervention. The assessment report is sent to the JJB, which in fit cases refers the children to a de-addiction centre run by an NGO in the same complex. Since they have to undergo a three-month course, some ill-advised parents may resort to various measures to hasten their children’s release, even alleging forcible extraction of confession regarding drug addiction,” he said.

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