In gross violation of the Juvenile Justice Act, minors have been wrongfully lodged with adult inmates at Burail jail here. This came to light during a check by the UT social welfare department last week, when three boys aged between 16 and 17 were found to be lodged in the prison.
Worse, the minors are still in the jail, though, under law, minors are to be kept in a juvenile home, not a prison for adults.
Protection officers Tabassum Khan and Anamika Passi had conducted the check, and came across 22 prisoners who had complained that they were wrongfully kept in the prison.
Social welfare department director Rajesh Jogpal said of the 22 prisoners, 14 were from the city. “When we checked, addresses of only five of the 14 inmates were found to be correct. On the basis of certificates produced by their families, three of them were found to be minors,” said Jogpal, adding that the department had written to the respective states for verifying the age of the remaining eight inmates.
The social welfare department has now asked inspector general (prison) Maneesh Chaudhary to immediately shift the minor inmates to a juvenile home in Sector 25 and also sought his response on the matter.
A senior police officer, who did not wish to be named, said the incident had brought to light that neither a proper inquiry was conducted by the police when the three were arrested, nor did the magistrates take due care when the prisoners were produced before them.
Contacted, IG (prison) Chaudhry refused to comment, saying that each inmate was send to judicial custody by the court on facts presented before it by the police.
UT inspector general of police (IGP) RP Upadhyaya said he would check if the minors were put in jail due to errors or deliberate misrecording of age by the investigating officers.
Institute of Correctional Administration deputy director Upneet Lalli said lodging of minors in adult jails was against the rules and minor inmates should be immediately produced before the juvenile justice board and sent to a juvenile home. Lalli, however, added: “Minors being lodged in adult jails is common across the country.”
Zulfikar Khan, who works for the welfare of slum children through his NGO Theatre Age, said that putting minors in adult jails increased the possibility of minors becoming hardcore criminals. He added that such children should be counselled for bringing them back to mainstream.
The law says
Under the Juvenile Justice Act, a minor juvenile is kept in custody at a juvenile home and not in a jail for adults. In routine practice, after a person is arrested, the investigating officer records the age in a detailed report which is presented before a court for its decision.
Every police officer at the time of arresting a minor accused is under obligation to inform the offender about his right to be dealt with under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act. The investigating officer affecting the arrest has to prepare the age memo, a copy of which is to be provided to the offender and his parents/ guardians/ relative who has been intimated about his arrest.