Handle juveniles with care, lawfully
Suhas Chakma on guidelines for protection of children in conflict situations
ONE KEY outcome of the joint investigation by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) into the alleged encounter of children in Manipur on 18-20 May is to develop guidelines for encounter deaths of children in conflict situations. From testimonies of the victims and their relatives during the probe, it was clear that at every stage, from apprehension to production, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2002 was fully violated by the security forces.
In its report to the NCPCR on 23 May, ACHR suggested to expand the guidelines to include arrest, detention and custodial and encounter deaths of children in armed conflicts. According to the latest Annual Report of the Ministry of Home Affairs for 2011-12, India faces internal security problems arising out of conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast and Leftwing extremism in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and others. Children in the age-group of 13-17 are the most vulnerable.
The most challenging aspect is determining juvenility, as juveniles are often shown as adults by security forces. It is essential that whenever a person arrested claims to be juvenile or the persons effecting arrest are of the opinion that the person being arrested is a juvenile, all legal rights of the juveniles be extended till the evidence of juvenility is produced or the age is determined.
With respect to arrest and detention, the central and state security forces carrying them out or taking a child into custody should bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags, with their designations, and these must be recorded in the duty register. A memo of arrest at the time of arrest must be prepared, and it shall be attested by at least one witness, who may be either a member of the family of the arrestee or a respectable person of the locality from where the arrest is made. The memo must contain information of which Special Juvenile Police Unit and Juvenile Justice Board or Judicial Magistrate the child is being produced to.
Considering torture of children, the arresting officer must examine the child and record major and minor injuries, if any, present on his/her body at the time of arrest. This ‘Inspection Memo’ must be signed both by the arrestee and the arresting officer, and its copy provided to the guardian/relatives of the child.
In case a child/juvenile in conflict with law is held, he or she shall be immediately placed under the charge of the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the designated police officer, who shall produce the juvenile/ child before the Juvenile Justice Board immediately — within 24 hours of the arrest, minus the time needed for a journey
Furthermore, the Area Commanding Officer (ACO) in charge of the Central Security Forces and the Superintendent of Police (SP) in case of the state police must be responsible for compliance. In case of a child’s encounter or custodial death, a First Information Report must be filed against the security personnel, naming the officer in charge and others involved. In each case, a judicial inquiry must be completed within four months. During the pendency of the investigation, the personnel responsible shall be suspended from active duty.
Chakma is the Director of the
Asian Centre for Human Rights.
The views expressed are personal