* Can the police detain my child (a juvenile in conflict with law) in lock-up?
* What is an observation home? Is it a jail?
* What should the police do and not do after apprehension?
These questions are part of six booklets,an initiative meant to demystify the juvenile justice system,by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS),Mumbai. Each booklet focuses on one key stakeholder in the system that includes the children (who have been apprehended by the police for allegedly committing an offence),their parents,the police,the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB),NGOs and observation homes. It is an effort by assistant professor Mohua Nigudkar and professor Neela Dabir from TISS. The information packs have drawn from the concept of the power pack in the UK,which is a compendium of national information related to the UK public law proceedings on matters concerning children.
The need for such information packs was felt for various reasons. There is ambiguity among some of the functionaries working within the system on the Juvenile Justice Act. Children are confused about the system and often do not receive complete information about the procedures to be followed. We also found that a majority of the family/guardians is unaware of the procedures and is susceptible to misguidance by vested interests. Social workers of the JJB and some magistrates may not be completely aware of the significance of the socio-legal approach as mandated by the Act. Thus,in many boards,they may not able to work as a team on all aspects of the juveniles ‘case or plan for effective rehabilitation and social integration of the child, said Dabir,co-author of the booklets.
Designing the booklets was a long-drawn process and involved visits and discussion with functionaries of the JJB,observation homes,NGOs and police to understand the ground realities. Informal interactions were also held with alleged juvenile offenders,lawyers,JJB members,police,superintendent and probation officers within the observation home. We think that having information available and accessible will lead to a demand for appropriate services and intervention. It could also prevent instances of manipulation and malpractices. We have distributed 150 packs so far. The information has been given in English and the booklets are being translated in Hindi and Marathi too, she said.
Each booklet outlines the rules and regulations,specific roles and responsibilities in a laypersons language. The information pack for parents,for instance,gives information on a juvenile,probation officer,observation home,what should be done after a child is apprehended and the procedures to be followed. Pertinent queries on whether the police can detain a child in the police station for over 24 hours for inquiry,the questions likely to be asked by JJB,grounds for refusing bail,what happens at an observation home,what happens to the childs education,special rules and provision for girls and whether the police can record the childs name permanently as offender if he/she is found to have committed an offence,have been answered.
There is lack of knowledge on almost all laws and regulations. These kind of initiatives are required more to make people aware of their rights and responsibilities. However,I hope that people make an effort to read the books, said Julio Ribeiro,former Mumbai Police Commissioner.
Similarly,the booklet for JJB outlines basic differences in dealing with juvenile and adult cases,their specific roles and procedures that should be followed. The police should inform the juvenile and his/her family the reasons for apprehension… they should not beat the juvenile nor keep him/her in contact with other adult offenders. The police should not wear uniform while escorting juvenile nor publish the name or any other information which leads to his/her identification, says the police booklet.