A month after a Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) report was filed in the Delhi High Court,stating that 162 juveniles were lodged in jails meant for adult undertrials,Delhi Police said it has initiated departmental action against erring investigating officers in the cases.
The Delhi High Court has been monitoring the issue of juveniles being put in jails due to errors or deliberate misrecording of age by police,ever since a PIL was filed in 2011.
On August 1,the High Court bench of then acting Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmad and Justice Vibhu Bakhru had taken note of the DLSA report and had ordered an enquiry by the DCPs concerned on why the police officials were purposely showing juveniles as adults when they should have been presented before the Juvenile Justice Board.
Police submitted a three-page affidavit to the court of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Pradeep Nandrajog on Thursday. The affidavit,signed by DCP (Headquarters),states that initial departmental inquiry had been conducted in all the 162 cases,and the investigating officers (IO) had been asked to explain why the alleged juveniles had been shown as adults at the time of arrests.
According to the report,the IOs had given satisfactory reply in 23 cases,while departmental action had been initiated against the IOs in 136 cases. The police affidavit also says that no trace was found of three cases mentioned in the DLSA report.
The DLSA and NCPCR conduct routine visits to jails in the capital,to determine whether any juveniles have been wrongly incarcerated in adult jails. This is done in keeping with directions issued by the High Court in 2011.
The visiting teams interview undertrials and recommend inquiries by the JJBs in case undertrials claim that they are under the age of 18. The JJB then conducts an age inquiry and if undertrials are found to be juvenile,their cases are transferred to the JJB for further proceedings.
A DLSA and NCPCR team had again visited all jails in the capital on August 17,and interviewed nearly 190 undertrials,many of whom have claimed to be juveniles. The inquiry proceedings to determine the age of these persons will now be initiated by the DLSA.
Advocate Anant Asthana,who had filed the initial PIL in the case,said while the departmental inquiries had been initiated by the police,the government had not implemented any system of regular jail visitor boards to check the situation in nine jails in Tihar and Rohini. The court had issued directions stating that the visitor boards should be made expeditiously,but the government has yet again said that they are working on it and have sought more time, Asthana said.
Bharti Ali of the Haq Centre for child rights,an NGO associated with the PIL,also expressed reservations about the report. The police affidavit simply says we have initiated action. It does not specify what has actually been done or will be done, Ali said.