The recent escape of two minors from a Juvenile Justice Home in Sector 25 has raised eyebrows about its security. This is the second incident of juvenile delinquents escaping from this government shelter in the last one-and-half years and fourth in the last four years.
On April 15, two juveniles had escaped after taking advantage of construction work inside the building. Later, one of the juveniles was arrested from Manimajra. Both were arrested in two separate cases of burglaries and were lodged at the home for the past two months.
Superintendent of the home Sham Lal submitted a complaint against security guard Gurpreet Singh and caretaker Bhupender Singh as they were on duty when the juveniles escaped.
Source said they escaped during installation of a lift inside. A police officer said they jumped from the roof top, scaled the back boundary wall in order to escape.
Though the boundary wall was lined with pieces of glass, juveniles cleared the glass and then jumped into the forest area in the back.
A case under charges of escape from confinement or custody negligently suffered by public servant was registered at Sector 11 police station. A police officer said the two booked will be arrested after examination of all legal aspects of the case.
In February last year, another juvenile had escaped but was later apprehended by security guards from Chandigarh railway station. The authorities did not report this incident to local police.
An interaction at the shelter home with some staff members who were unwilling to come on record suggested a need for strengthening of manpower and upgrading of the security system.
The shelter home, which is managed by UT Social Welfare, Women and Child Development, is spread half an acre and shares a boundary with Chitkara International School on one side. The boundary walls of the single-storey building are topped with rolls of barbed and concertina wires, making them around 7.5 ft high.
The department has engaged with a private security firm to manage security in the government building.
A security staff member told Chandigarh Newsline, “Sixty-three juveniles were kept in the building and we are only 12 persons including a caretaker for their security. The other 11 persons — including councillors, physicians and legal aid providers — have nothing to do with security arrangements. All juveniles lodged in the building were divided in three sections. Convicted juveniles were lodged on the first floor and others, divided further into two categories, were lodged on the ground floor. We have raised the issue of increasing the manpower, especially of guards, with the authorities several times but are yet to get a positive response.”
On the ground level, juveniles are divided into two categories — those facing cases under Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) and those facing other offences like theft, snatching, attempt to murder, murder, abduction etc.
Another member deputed in security said, “There was a time when just 13 juveniles were lodged at this observation home and 15 people were there for security. Ironically, at present there are 63 juveniles and 12 persons for their security. There are 10 guards and three guards work in 8-hour shifts. CCTV cameras are installed for monitoring the movements of all juveniles.”
Bisman Ahuja, program officer with the UT Social Welfare Department, said, “Indeed there is scope for increasing security around the building. Our building has the capacity to house 100 juveniles. Currently, we have 23 staff members including superintendent Sham Lal and security guards, who were outsourced from a private agency.”
A source said 11 juveniles out of 63 are convicts and around nine are facing allegations of sexual assault under the POCSO Act. The remaining are facing allegations of snatching, theft, burglary etc.
The observation-cum-special home falls in the jurisdiction of Sector 11 police station. It is being regulated under the guidelines of the Juvenile Justice Board, and focuses on rehabilitation and overall development of every inmate’s personality, and offers facilities like education, library, indoor games etc.
In December 2015, UT police had strongly raised the issue of weak security arrangements with UT Social Welfare department after two consequent incidents of eight juveniles escaping from the home.