THE OFFICIAL data on juvenile crime in the country is ‘erroneous’, claim findings presented during a consultation on the interpretation of crime data on children in Mumbai recently.
A first of its kind state-level consultation in the country was held by the High Court Juvenile Justice Committee of Maharashtra, where National Crime Records Bureau and its state counterpart made presentations on the methodology of the data collated in the annual report, Crime in India, published by the Home Ministry recently. Resource Cell for Juvenile Justice, a field action project of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, presented an analysis of the data and the interpretation of numbers.
“In the Crime in India, 2014 report, 175 children under 12 years of age were booked under the Juvenile Justice Act. Only those who have committed the offence of exploiting children for the purpose of begging, giving intoxicating substances, hiring children for employment can be booked under this Act. In this context, these children would have been rescued children who have been wrongly documented as (under) conflict with law because of lack of understanding of the definitions under the JJ Act on part of statisticians,” presented Dr. Asha Mukundan, project director, RCJJ and assistant professor at TISS.
In his inaugural speech, Supreme court judge Justice Madan Lokur said, “Errors of tabulation are the result of lack of understanding of the working definitions in the JJ system.”
Mukundan quoted other statistics, including one where children below 12 years of age are shown to be booked under “kidnapping and abduction of women to compel her for marriage.”
“In such cases, an adult may be the main accused, while the child may have accompanied the adult. However, both are booked following the complaint. NCRB follows the system of tabulating offence as per the principal offence rule that factors only the most severe offence in the FIR. So the data reflects the child also as committing a serious offence. This in turn results in increase of serious crimes, which is then flawed,” Mukundan claimed.
It was pointed out in the consultation that since the data is referred to while formulating laws and policies, its errors could have serious implications. Justice V M Kanade, chairperson of the Bombay High Court Juvenile Justice Committee, directed that a committee be set up to re-look the existing proforma on collecting data.
Earlier, the Bombay High Court had cross-checked data of the Maharashtra State Crime Records Bureau, which had published that in 2013 that 2,224 children were sent to special homes and in 2014, 1,549 children were sent to special homes after being found to have committed offences. The verification revealed that in 2013, only around 86 children were sent to special homes while in 2014, the number was 49.
The NCRB has recently released crime data for the year 2015. The 2015 report too maintains the tables mentioned in the analysis in the TISS study.