Can’t force juveniles to sign statement: court

Police personnel,who apprehend adolescents and take them straight to police stations,where they are allegedly made to sign disclosure statements of their “crimes”,will find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi | Published:March 3, 2009 2:04 am

Police personnel,who apprehend adolescents and take them straight to police stations,where they are allegedly made to sign disclosure statements of their “crimes”,will find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,2000,prescribes that children found in “conflict with law” should be first taken to observation homes,where they are to be put up till their production before the Juvenile Justice Board for inquiry.

A division bench led by Chief Justice A P Shah severely cautioned police officers,asking them to immediately stop taking juvenile offenders to local police stations and making them sign detailed statements to be used against them.

“There will be no signatures or thumb impressions taken from these children… Any officer who does so will be exposed to contempt of court,” Chief Justice Shah said.

“Children in conflict with the law should be handed over to observation homes,from where they will be produced before the Juvenile Justice Board,” the court observed recently. A formal written order in this regard is due on Tuesday,March 3.

The observations were made even though senior police counsel Mukta Gupta submitted that juvenile officers,who head such investigations,were posted at police stations.

The Bench had on December 17,2008 taken suo motu cognizance of a letter from child rights worker Minna Kabir and advocate Anant Asthana alleging that police officers obtained signatures from juveniles under duress. The letter alleged that these statements,included as part of the chargesheets prepared against juveniles,were even admitted as evidence by the Juvenile Justice Board.

This is despite the fact that Section 162 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibits the use of signed statements made to the police during a probe as evidence in a court of law,the letter pointed out.

The court warning comes despite a circular issued by Special Commissioner of Police (Administration) Neeraj Kumar on December 23 to all branches of the Delhi Police,including the elite Special Cell,Crime Branch and the Crime Against Women Cell (CAW),asking them to “forthwith stop” the practice of making juveniles in custody sign written statements.

“The Delhi High Court has taken a suo motu notice of a letter signed by child rights workers,wherein it has been mentioned that the Delhi Police is getting signed statements from children apprehended under the Juvenile Justice Act,and filing them along with chargesheets before the Juvenile Justice Board. This practice,if in existence,must stop forthwith,” the police circular stated.

It also urged the joint commissioner of police of CAW and his counterpart in Police Training to “include this aspect” in their training or sensitisation programmes.

Suman Doval,counsel for the child rights workers,filed a detailed affidavit on February 25 as per the specific directions of the Chief Justice,submitting that “parents of the child should be immediately informed about his apprehension and furnished with a copy of the FIR,including information on the charges,time and place and date of arrest,and also the time of production of the child before the Juvenile Justice Board”.

When Doval apprised the court of the fact that his clients deal with about 75 such cases a day,Chief Justice Shah reacted as to why “this grave issue was not brought to our notice earlier? If there is no protection of child rights and the Juvenile Board is also lacklustre,you should have brought every such case to our attention,why were you late?”

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