The Delhi High Court on Tuesday pulled up the government for suggesting that it was weighing a proposal to shift juvenile homes to the Tihar Jail premises to prevent incidents of inmates escaping from correction homes.
Pulling up the Department of Women and Child Development, which made the suggestion, the court observed that the juvenile justice system 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,” a bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice RV Easwar said.
Senior advocate A J Bhambhani, the amicus curiae, 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,” he said.
The court on Tuesday called the matter for urgent hearing. The principal secretary and director in the Women and Child Development Department appeared before the court and submitted a report on action taken by the department following Monday’s incident, in which 44 inmates of an observation home escaped. Only six had returned until Tuesday afternoon.
The government informed the court that 18 security guards deployed at the juvenile home had ‘run away’ after trouble started. The superintendent of the home was also not present. He has been suspended and a new officer appointed, the court heard.
Last year, the High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the problems at juvenile homes. In its response to the court earlier this month, the government informed that it would replace private security guards at juvenile homes with former defence personnel from the Directorate General of Resettlement (DGR). The proposal, however, is yet to be implemented as it requires clearance from the Revenue department.
The court directed that DGR security should be deployed at juvenile homes within 72 hours. “You have cleared the proposal in principle. Deploy them within 72 hours. Work out the details later,” the bench said.
Government standing counsel Zubeda Begum told the court that the L-G had called a meeting between police, the Public Works Department and the Department of Women and Child Development on Thursday to discuss security issues at correction home.