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Bangladesh High Court orders jailed children to safe homes

Dhaka, Oct 26 (PTI)

The High Court has ordered immediate transfer 145 minors languishing in Bangladeshi jails across the country to safe homes, officials said here today.

The court asked the concerned lower court judges to consider the release of the detained children on bail, even if they were accused in non-bailable cases as the attorney general reported that at least 145 children aged under 18 now languished in different prisons.

A bench comprising judges M Imman Ali and Obaidul Hasan issued the order on a suo motto rule, or an order it had issued on its own without any petition by anyone, on September 19 asking the government to explain why the children detained in jails would not be transferred to safe homes.

"According to the order the social welfare ministry has to take the responsibility of keeping a child in a place safe for a child where there is no juvenile correction centre or safe home," a court official said.


The officials said the court came down heavily on the government for keeping 145 children still in prisons across the country in violation of the Children Act ignoring repeated previous High Court verdicts and orders.

"Keeping a child in jail either in the name of safe custody or in a criminal case is completely illegal and prisons cannot be a safe place for the children," they quoted the order as saying.

The court also reprimanded the government for keeping the National Taskforce on Juvenile Justice inactive and ordered its immediate reactivation to protect the children rights.

The order came a year after another High Court bench asked the government to establish a national children commission and to reactivate the national taskforce to protect children rights.

The New Age newspaper said the High Court first came up to save the children from languishing in jails in 2003 when a bench issued a seven-point directive for the government on jailed children saying no juvenile accused should be kept in jail instead of special correctional homes and other designated shelters.

The National Taskforce on Juvenile Justice, however, was formed immediately after the verdict with representation of 27 government and non-government agencies but it appeared not very active. As prisons witnessed a gradual increase in the number of juvenile inmates, the High Court on March 4, 2007 issued a fresh suo moto rule on the government to explain why necessary action should not be taken against it for keeping children in jails in violation of the April 9, 2003 verdict.

The number of children in jails, however, increased by 42 in a month after the March 4, 2007 High Court order, prompting another High Court bench to issue a fresh order to transfer the children languishing in jails to juvenile development centres immediately.

After hearing a writ petition filed by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, the court also issued a rule on the government to explain why its action in keeping children in jails should not be declared illegal.

Lawyers said police and the lower courts still continued sending children to jail defying the High Court orders and the law while the prison authorities too were yet to take any visible step for transferring child inmates to the juvenile development centres.

In the September 3, 2009 verdict, the High Court also asked the government to amend the Children Act 1974 or to enact a new comprehensive law to protect the children rights in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The government was also asked to update the National Children Policy addressing the protection of the children rights and juvenile justice system in accordance with the UN convention.

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