Juvenile justice in Karnataka deplorable, says report
Children at “high risk” of abuse by other inmates in prisons, homes
Juveniles in conflict with law are denied justice and exposed to high risk abuse in congested and poorly kept observation homes due to long pendency of cases in Karnataka.
They are subject to “high risk” of abuse from other inmates behind the bars in a clear violation of the law, according to a report of non-government organisation Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR).
“The situation of juveniles in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection across India is precarious. Nothing underlines this more than the situation in Karnataka. The administration of juvenile justice remains deplorable in the state,” it said.
The State currently has 81 registered Child Care Institutions but they are marked by absence of necessary staff and facilities for care and protection. Many incidents indicated that children lodged at these institutions are subjected to torture and other human rights violations by the authorities.
“In November 2011, a 14-year-old rescued child labourer was allegedly tortured by the warden of state-run Children’s Home for Boys at Bangalore. The assault by the warden of the Children’s Home resulted in temporary disability in the victim’s right hand. The minor was denied appropriate medical care,” the ACHR noted.
Such deplorable conditions have led to children taking the extreme step of committing suicide. “On January 31, three undertrial juveniles lodged in the government remand home for boys and girls at Madivala attempted suicide inside the home by consuming pesticide. They were subsequently hospitalised,” it added.
The ACHR report also noted that cases pending before the Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) were not regularly heard in clear violation of provisions of the law even as the State government had established 28 JJBs for 30 districts.
As of February 10, 2012, there were about 2,500 cases pending under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act in Karnataka. “Pending cases not only result in denial of justice but places juveniles at risk when incarcerated in the congested and appalling living conditions of Observation Homes,” the report underlined.
The ACHR noted that the State Human Rights Commission and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights in Karnataka have been more vigilant than their counterparts in other states but the Karnataka government had failed to comply with national and international standards.
Instead of increasing vigilance over Observation Homes, Special Homes and Children’s Homes, “which have become centres of abuse”, the State government in October 2010 put the “most regressive” condition that “members of the Child Welfare Committees cannot visit child care institutions, when they are not holding a sitting, without prior permission of the heads of these institutions”.
No inspection took place during 2009-2011 in a number of juvenile homes including Balakara Bal Mandir, Gulbarga; Children Home for Boys, Chikmagalur; Government Observation Home (Boys), Gulbarga; Government Observation Home, Dharwad; Government Juvenile Home for Boys at Bagalkot; Government Juvenile Home for Girls at Bagalkot and Balamandir for Boys, Belgaum.
As of December 2011, no educator was appointed in as many as 19 government-run homes out of 81 homes and the juveniles in these homes were being deprived of the right to education which is recognised as a fundamental right, the ACHR noted.
The rights body also observed non-compliance of United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Karnataka Rules, 2010 which provides for segregation of the inmates on the basis of their gender, degree of offence and age.
“The non- separation of the inmates on the basis of their age underlines the danger to juveniles of criminal contamination. At Children Home for Boys, Chikmagalur, boys and girls are being kept in the same home and no inspection took place in the Home during 2009-2011,” the ACHR underlined.