After several incidents of juvenile inmates running away from the special homes, Department of Woman and Child Development on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that it was mulling over a proposal to shift the Juvenile home to the Tihar Jail campus for “security”. The court pulled up the government for the suggestion, observing that the Juvenile Justice regime was “meant to keep these children out of jail.”
“The whole point was to come up with a new design and system. If you say you can’t keep them secure, it is admitting defeat,” said the bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice RV Easwar.
Senior advocate AJ Bhambhani, appointed as amicus curiae in the suo motu case, also objected to the suggestion, arguing that the children were meant to be kept in a “special place, not a jail.” “if they are kept in jail there will be more psychological damage”said Bhambani.
The court had on Tuesday morning specially summoned the Principal Secretary, WCD, and Director Department of WCD to submit a report on Monday’s incident where juvenile inmates of the Observation Home for Boys had run away from the home after an altercation. 44 Juveniles had climbed over logs kept near the walls, and escaped. According to the WCD officials, only 6 had returned to the home till Tuesday afternoon.
The High court had last year taken up suo motu cognizance of the problems at the Juvenile homes, with similar incidents of escape, vandalism and even arson being reported from the homes in May, August, September, October and December last year.
In its response to the court earlier this month, the government had informed the court that it would replace the private security guards at the Juvenile homes with officers from the DGR. The government had taken decision to deploy DGR personnel in a meeting on December 27. The proposal however had not been implemented as it was awaiting clearance from the revenue department. The government department also informed the court that 18 security guards who had been deployed at the Juvenile home, had ‘run away’ when the altercation had started.
The Superintendent of the home was also not present at the scene, and has now been suspended. A new officer has been appointed as superintendent, said the Principal Secretary.
The court has now directed that the DGR security should be deployed within 72 hours. ” you have cleared the proposal in principle. Deploy them within 72 hours. Work out the details later” said the court.
Government standing counsel Zubeda Begum also informed the court that the LG has called a meeting between the Police and Social Welfare Department on Thursday to look into the various issues of security.
The Social welfare department also suggested that a senior police officer could be appointed as a ‘Nodal officer’ to expedite response of the police when such incidents occur. ” the PCR took 45 minutes to respond on Monday” said the WCD officials. The court has asked the government to consider appointment of a Nodal officer, and directed that additional PCR vans should be deployed near the Juvenile institutions.
The government has also been directed to submit a comprehensive review of the problems by March 6.