A district court on Monday directed the Beur jail administration to transfer the controversial state intermediate examination topper to a remand home on the grounds that the accused student is a minor.
The 17-year-old was arrested in connection with the toppers scam after serious doubts were cast on the authenticity of her high scores in the examination. She had scored 444 out of 500, but was later recorded as saying that political science was a subject about cooking.
The student failed to appear for a re-test on two occasions, finally appearing on June 25, following which a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) arrested and sent her to Beur jail. However, local media pointed out that the student was a minor.
The special vigilance court accepted the same on Monday based on a matriculation certificate which listed the student’s date of birth as November 15, 1998. According to this, the accused will become a major this November.
The court also directed its office to segregate all records related to the student and hand it over to the Juvenile Justice Board.
Counsel for the accused, Kapil Deo Mishra, also moved an application in court seeking a showcause notice against the police officers, the SIU and the juvenile welfare officer for treating the minor as an adult and unduly arresting her.
Mishra said the first information report (FIR) should have mentioned the age of the student, especially when it was known that she was an intermediate examinee.
“There has been violation of the Juvenile Justice Act and rules by police, the SIU, special juvenile police unit (SJPU) and the juvenile welfare officer,” he argued.
Patna senior superintendent of police, Manu Maharaaj, deflected the blame and said the student or the parents should have furnished documents proving her age before the court.
“The police are nowhere at fault,” he said.
The accused student is yet to be transferred as jail authorities are awaiting the official court order.
“As soon as we get it, the process of shifting will start,” Beur jail superintendent, Rupak Kumar said.
According to the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA), unless a minor has been accused of a heinous crime, such as rape or murder, an FIR cannot be filed against them. Further, police cannot name the minor in the FIR, let alone make an arrest.
The JJA defines a child or juvenile as a person who has not completed 18 years of age. It outlines two target groups – children in need of care and protection and juveniles in conflict with law.
“When a police officer comes in contact with a juvenile, he must place the child with the special juvenile police unit (SJPU) who must report the child to the board without delay. Bail is available to juveniles in all cases as long as the board finds the release of the child will not place him in any danger or in the influence of criminals. If the child is not released on bail, he or she is only to be placed in the custody of an observation home,” the Act further outlines.
Prayas Bharti, an NGO that Mishra is associated with, appealed to parents of the other three toppers accused in the scam to furnish records and certificates of their children in case they are minors. These students are currently in the wind.