“Thousands” of child inmates may be “languishing” in jails meant for adults across the country due to absence of any age proof or foolproof mechanism for age determination, according to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
In an affidavit submitted on Tuesday to the Delhi High Court, the NCPCR stated that over 2,600 probable juveniles had been identified in Delhi’s jails during visits between 2012 and 2014, indicating that similarly huge numbers may be found in other states as well.
The child rights panel has also recommended that the Delhi government should be directed to expedite the process of issuing birth certificates, Aadhaar cards and other identity cards to the 198 accused identified as juveniles by the panel after an age inquiry conducted for “suspected” juveniles in Tihar jail.
The High Court has been monitoring the issue of juveniles being incarcerated in adult jails since 2012 in a PIL. The court had earlier directed periodic visits by a panel constituted by the NCPCR and Delhi Legal Services Authority to various jails to ensure that juveniles can be identified.
During the pendency of the PIL, various NGOs associated with the issue had recommended that since the juveniles often belonged to lower strata of society, they did not have any legal identification in form of birth/school certificates or Adhaar cards.
The court had also directed police to follow the procedure of making age memos of arrested persons to be submitted with other papers while admitting a prisoner to the jails.
In the affidavit filed on Tuesday, the NCPCR has recommended that all courts in the capital should attach the age memo to the court warrants before sending the undertrial to jail, and has sought High Court orders to the jail authorities to ensure that any offender who is between 18-21 years of age is not admitted to jail without an age memo attached to the warrant.
“NCPCR believes that the issue of juvenility and adulthood will remain contentious until a foolproof mechanism is evolved to ensure that the verification of inmates is done prior to their admission in a jail in the country,” the affidavit states.
To tackle the problem, the child rights panel has now suggested that all states in the country follow the process of age verification and regular visits to jails to determine whether any juveniles have been incarcerated there. The High Court bench headed by the Chief Justice is expected to take up the matter on Wednesday.