A Muslim boy, who was thrown in with hardened criminals at the age of 16, has died in the local jail. It's illegal to put minor prisoners anywhere but in juvenile home.
The death on May 27, attributed to mysterious reasons, has brought the Kapurthala police under the scanner for hiding the boy's age and, most serious of all, sending a minor to jail. The fear of action has driven them to build pressure on the boy's family for settlement, but the family wants justice.
Under the Juvenile Justice Act, minors in custody can be kept only at observation home and not in a jail meant for adults. HT has a copy of the boy's Aadhar card, which shows that he was born in 1998; so by that, his age must 16 years and two months when the Kapurthala Sadar police arrested him first on May 28, 2014. In the FIR (first-information report), the police claimed to have caught him near a canal at Buddho Pinder village on the Jalandhar border for keeping 30-gram drug powder. Then, he was moved to the Kapurthala jail instead of the juvenile home in Hoshiarpur, and after three months, released on bail.
This May 20, the Kapurthala police arrested him again after he had jumped bail, and brought him back to jail. His elder brother, Fard Hussain (22), alleged that on May 26, his brother had called from jail to say that an inmate forcing him for unnatural sex had threatened to kill him if he didn't yield. "The next morning, police informed us about my brother's death," said Hussain. "Now when our family has raised its voice against negligence, we are being approached for settlement through mediators," said the boy's uncle, Mohammad Sajid.
He has threatened to move the Punjab and Haryana high court and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for stern action against policemen. "We want justice, not money," he said. Asked to react, Bharat Masih, who was station house officer (SHO) of Kapurthala Sadar at the time of boy's arrest and is now Bhogpur SHO, said he didn't remember the particular case but if family had approached him, he would have corrected the police record of the boy's age. "I think the boy's family didn't approach me with his age proof," said Masih.
Deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Mahinder Singh said that as the case was now in court, the police no longer had the record. Kapurthala senior superintendent of police (SSP) Ashish Chaudhary said: "The case is now with the judiciary; and so far, the police have nothing to do." Superintendent of police (jails) Paramjit Singh denied the charge of negligence against the prison authorities said that in the police record, the boy's age was 19; and it was duty of the police officers and not jail authorities to confirm that.
Deputy inspector general (Jalandhar range) Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh said he had sought "a clear and detailed report" from the Kapurthala SSP, adding: "Action will be taken based on facts."