A former Indian Police Service official, Amod Kanth, has been organising interface sessions between senior Delhi Police officers and juvenile delinquents as part of a reform programme that among other things aims at drawing the two sides together.
His non-government organisation ‘Prayas’ is currently organising programmes for 100 juveniles to help the State understand the motive behind crimes and to curb their recurrence. “The programme has 25 per cent juveniles who were involved in serious crimes.” It is being attended by a large spectrum of stakeholders, including students from Delhi University, doctors, social workers, counsellors, educators and vocational instructors.
“Almost 25 per cent of the children in the programme have committed serious crimes, but they are not beyond correction,” he said, adding that there is also a common thread which runs through them. “Almost all of them belong to a socially and economically deprived background; a majority, about 80 per cent, are illiterate or have taken to drugs and alcohol; and 80 to 90 per cent of them have an adverse family background which has affected them psychologically and sociologically.
“The programme has shown radical changes in the juveniles and they are prepared to be improved. The families of some of them are also participating.”
The highlight of the programme is that it brings senior officers and the juveniles face to face. Noting that former Police Commissioner B. K. Gupta had attended the sessions, Mr. Kanth said efforts were also being made to get the present incumbent Neeraj Kumar to interact with these juveniles, particularly so as some of them also have some grievances against the police.
He said the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2006, provides protection to juveniles and they cannot be punished for crimes. “This is so because the normal law of the land, the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act do not apply to them,” he said.
In case of crimes in which the maximum punishment is less than seven years, even a case is not registered against juveniles. “They cannot be mentioned in the FIRs and cannot be kept in juvenile homes,” he said.
In the case which entail an over seven-year punishment, they are either kept in a special home or an observation home. The maximum period of stay can only be three years. However, he insists the law provides for community service, which can be stringent. “It should be resorted to as it gives the children a chance to improve.”