Can’t give special treatment to minors if arrested with adults, says SP
After an incident of communal violence in Kalladka in June 2012, the police arrested two young men and locked them in Udupi Jail. It took the police three weeks to realise they were minors. The FIR stated they were 18.
On July 17 this year, the police booked Roshini* for prostitution as a major after she was found wearing skirts in Guruvanyankere, though her school transfer certificate confirms her age as 17. “They [Belthangady police] just assumed my age… It was only after I was released that I knew that minors are not supposed to be put in jail,” she said.
Among the arrested for the infamous home stay attack in Padil on July 28, 2012, was a 17-year-old boy. He spent nearly eight months in the Mangalore sub-jail before his age was brought to the notice of the police.
These sum up common violations, and highlight problems in the implementation of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Karnataka Rules 2010. Though the police should file an FIR after age verification, in numerous cases — including the arrests of eight juvenile protesting the closure of Kannada schools on November 1, 2012 — minors are sent to jail.
Many officers say there is little awareness of the law among the police – even among those designated as Child Welfare Officer (CWO) trained “in provisions of the Act, child rights and child psychology”.
“Good CWOs are a minority,” says Asha Nayak, Chairperson, Child Welfare Committee. Even basics such as immediate medical check-up, proper filling of arrest memo, calling CWC or Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) after arrest are often not followed, she says.
A JJB official attributes these problems to the frequent transfers of trained officers, leaving many stations with untrained personnel. “A common violation is to book minors for cases where the maximum sentence is less than seven years – like theft or fights – instead of sending them to JJB for counselling,” the JJB official says, estimating that around six minors are imprisoned every year.
Though officials are expected to be child friendly, 14-year-old Nilofer*, who was raped by two men near Ullal in December, remembers the police asking her if “her family gave her away to the men”, apart from making her wait long hours at the police station, where she came in contact with the accused.
Onus on accused
Superintendent of Police Abhishek Goyal puts the onus of identification as a minor on the accused, saying that for the police it is not “obvious” that the arrested is above or below 18.
In cases where a minor is arrested along with majors, it was “impractical” to give the former special treatment. Furthermore, the SP said awareness should be created on the JJB as the “police deals with hundreds of other acts”.
(*Names changed to protect identities)