TWO YEARS after he was booked for rash and negligent driving, 18-year old Aakash (name changed) is back at the Observation Home for children in conflict with the law in Bhiwandi. This time, he is armed with chart papers, statistics and other information on traffic rules.
Aakash was 16 when riding a motorbike, he hit a pedestrian, causing serious injury to the man and himself. Last week, speaking before other minors at the Observation Home, Aakash’s first lesson was against underage driving. “I told them one should not ride without a licence, which can be obtained after completion of 18 years. It is not right to ride without a helmet,” he said.
The Juvenile Justice Board in Bhiwandi, which heard Aakash’s case, directed him to perform community service as part of his sentence. A date and time was fixed and he was asked to come prepared for a talk on traffic rules.
Under the supervision of the probation officer, Aakash spoke for over 30 minutes, also fielding questions asked by children. “I know what I did was wrong. The rules do not permit driving under 18. I told the children this, they heard me attentively,” he said.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2016, has provisions for seven options to sentence a child found in conflict with the law. These include allowing the child to go after advice or admonition, group counselling, and community service. The last option — not usually put to use — is being utilised by the Bhiwandi home for the past two months. The Board in Bhiwandi is for matters under the jurisdiction of Thane district.
An official said that apart from Aakash, a few other children have been asked to perform different community service activities. “One child was asked what his interest was. When he said that he was good in yoga, the Board directed him to teach children in the Home a few asanas. Another child was asked to read up on Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mahatma Gandhi and Savitribai Phule among others, and speak about them to inspire other children,” said the official.
Experts working in the field of juvenile justice say that while this is a good provision in the Act, it has not been put to much use across the country so far.
The National Crime Records Bureau, the only available official data on the Juvenile Justice crime data, details final orders given to juveniles found in conflict with law, which does not include any data on community service. So far, apart from the JJB in Bhiwandi, the one in Pune too has been assigning community service to children.
Recently, a similar order of community service was also passed by the Bombay High Court to four men in a criminal matter, which directed them to clean the streets of their area for a period of six months for a few hours every Sunday.