The NHRC on Monday sent notices to all states and Union Territories seeking details of children living in jails with their mothers, after an RTI query in Odisha revealed that 46 children were living in jails with their mothers in possible violation of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines.
The RTI query, posed by Biswapriya Kanungo, a human rights lawyer in Odisha, revealed that 25 girls and 21 boys, less than six years of age, were living in jails across the state. Nine of their mothers are convicts, while 36 are undertrials.
Guidelines have been issued by the MHA’s Bureau of Police Research and Development in the “Model Prison Manual” regarding children residing with mothers in jails. The manual says jails should have a creche for children up to three years of age and nursery school for those between three and six. After attaining six years of age, the superintendent of the prison has to inform the Directorate of Social Welfare for placement of the children in homes run by the Social Welfare Department.
Saying that his office is yet to receive the NHRC notice, Additional DG of Prisons (Odisha) Binayananda Jha said, “We have 91 jails in the state and 45 children. Most children belong to undertrial mothers, who may move out when bail is granted. It is challenging and expensive to run nurseries and crèches in every jail through the year when requirement is temporary.”