Mohamed Imranullah S

State has only one borstal school

MADURAI: The Madras Borstal Schools Act, 1926, stipulates that adolescent offenders aged 18-21 be lodged only in borstal schools, and not in regular prisons along with hardened criminals.

Even after 80 years of the enactment, Tamil Nadu has only one such school at Pudukottai with a capacity to accommodate just 40 inmates. Consequently, 396 male and 23 female adolescent remand and undertrial prisoners (according to the statistics available as on October 4, 2006) are languishing in various jails.

Only the convicted adolescent prisoners have been transferred to the borstal school owing to its limited capacity.

Lack of infrastructure

Passing orders on a public interest litigation petition on the issue, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on August 3 last directed the Prison department to transfer all adolescent prisoners to borstal schools within two weeks. But the orders could not be complied with for want of infrastructure.

According to prison officials, it is impractical to shift hundreds of adolescent prisoners, including teenage girls to the lone borstal school. Since the remand and undertrial prisoners have to be produced before courts at regular intervals, the department may have to incur a huge expenditure for arranging for their transport.

Hence, Additional Director-General of Prisons V. Balachandran has moved the Madurai Bench seeking at least six more months to implement the court order. A number of borstal schools might have to be constructed all over the State and so he would require a reasonable time to prevail upon the Government, he says in his petition, which will come up for hearing in the first week of February.

While the Act deals with adolescent prisoners, offenders aged below 18 are governed by the Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act, 2002, that warrants their detention in juvenile homes.