Nearly 40% of juvenile delinquents in India live in conditions ‘like or even worse than’ adult prisons, according to a scathing judicial report that studied the state of children homes across the country.
Criminal suspects or convicts below the age of 18, classified as children in the eye of the law, are given a chance to reform themselves. The country’s juvenile justice act mandates they be kept in special homes, and not adult prisons, where they will be able to go through a rehabilitation process.
A Supreme Court committee headed by judge Madan B Lokur said nearly 40% of the children in government-run homes live in ‘deplorable’ conditions for which no one is being held accountable.
Not enough resources are being provided to run these homes in a child-friendly manner. Many of the homes are like or worse than prison for adults, the report said.
“These are not stray incidents happening only in one place, but in several places across the country, despite which there is no discussion, transfers, suspensions, inquiry commissions, judicial commissions, etc,” justice Lokur said in the report, submitted to the apex court last week.
National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures show that around 33,887 children below the age of 18 were booked in 2012. The figure has risen by about 142% between 2002 and 2012, the NCRB stated.
The government is in the process of bringing about a change in the juvenile justice act that treats children between 16 and 18 as adults in the cases of grave crimes such as murder and rape.
Justice Lokur’s report blamed the state governments for the deplorable conditions. The states have failed in their statutory duty towards children staying in public funded child care homes, it said.
As remedial measures, the committee has recommended creation of a national Indian Child Protection and Welfare Service, identification of risk families by district child protection units, identification of children requiring care and protection and mandatory uploading of missing children on the government website.