Thiruvananthapuram: The Juvenile Justice Rules have been in force since 2016, but the state police continues to deal with children involved in even minor crimes as adult criminals.
The various forms of protection these children are entitled to under the law are being arbitrarily denied. Whenever this has been pointed out, the state police had taken the stand that the Rules were issued by the Centre and not by the state.
Putting to rest any confusion, DGP Loknath Behera has now come out with a ‘circular’ this week directing police officials to follow the rules framed by the Centre while taking children into custody children who had a brush with crime. A major clause, which has always been flouted by the police without a thought, is that no First Information Report should be registered against a child except when the offence is of a heinous nature, the kind that invites imprisonment of more than seven years. If the crime is not of the heinous nature, say theft, then the circular says that the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the Child Welfare Police Officer should record the information regarding the offence alleged to have been committed by the child in the ‘General Diary’.
It is also quite common for the police to detain a child alleged to have committed a crime, and in many cases the child is kept in custody for more than 24 hours. The Rules stipulate that the police officer apprehending a child alleged to be in conflict with law should not send the child to a police lock-up, but without delay should transfer the child to the child welfare police officer from the nearest police station. The child’s parents or guardians should also be immediately informed.
The apprehended child should be spoken to with compassion, and not with the intention to intimidate. The police officer, the Rules say, cannot compel the child to confess his guilt. Moreover, the child has to be “interviewed” only at the Special Juvenile Police Unit or at a child-friendly premises or at a child friendly corner in the police station.
The child, in other words, should not get the feel of a police station or that he was being put through a custodial interrogation. The parent or guardian of the child should also be present.
Most importantly, the Rules state that the list of all designated child welfare police officers, child welfare officers, probation officers, para legal volunteers, District Legal Services authorities and registered voluntary and non-governmental organisations in a district, with their contact numbers, should be prominently displayed in every police station.