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More than 100 juvenile offenders have been languishing in three different jails of Jharkhand because there is either not enough proof of their ages or the police have not documented investigations properly, a survey has said.
The survey carried out by Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (JSCPCR) said the number of such minors could be more once they study other jails in the state.
During their visits to the three jails, the JSCPCR members found 57 juveniles in Dhanbad jail, 47 in Palamu and 16 in Lohardagga have been booked for petty criminal offences and have been serving rigorous imprisonment.
The JSCPCR has been conducting the survey in central and district jails of the state to find out the number of minors behind bars.
Once completed, the report would be sent to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). HT has access to the preliminary findings of the commission.
“The final figures that would emerge after completion of our survey would be startling,” said Sanjay Mishra, JSPCR member.
He said the reason why so many minors are in jails is that junior ranking police officers had little knowledge of Juvenile Justice Act.
The NHRC had recently directed its wings in all states to find out the status of execution of Juvenile Justice Act. It was brought to NHRC’s notice that Jharkhand police, in a hurry to dispose of cases, often sends minors to jails instead of remand homes. They do not take the pains to verify their ages.
Mishra added that in several cases, minors have been passed off as 19-year-olds, and referred to courts.
A case in point is a 14 year-old undertrial in Palamu Central Jail. The boy was picked up after a family feud turned violent. Though the boy looks every inch a minor, the police arrested him and mentioned his age to be 19. Since the boy did not go to any school or possessed any government document certifying his age, there was no way the people could contest the police claim.
“Most of these minors languishing in jail are accused in small criminal offences like coal thefts, pick pocketing and group clashes,” said Mishra.
The JSCRPC chairperson Roop Laxmi Munda said they have sought explanations from district administrative and police officials concerned for the grave lapses.
“We have asked them to form a review board comprising respective civil surgeons of the districts to verify the ages of the juvenile under trials,” he said.
According to the guidelines of Juvenile Justice Act, a minor shall be produced before a JJ Board if he claims so and produces documentary evidences to prove his age.