A juvenile remand home in Ranchi
December 30, 2013: body of a missing schoolgirl recovered from Ranchi Lake. Police arrest two. Examination reveals both are minors. Case handed over to Juvenile Justice Board
January 12, 2014: 16-year-old girl, returning from a temple trip with a male friend, gang-raped in Ranchi’s Kamre village. Eight youths of Pandra arrested two days later. Seven are found to be below 18. Police compelled to handle the matter “delicately”
January 28, 2014: 15-year-old gang-raped in Itki, Ranchi. Police arrest seven three days later. Medical examination confirms four are minors. The Juvenile Justice Act called for leniency
These are not just three stray examples. The increasing involvement of youngsters below the age of 18 in serious crimes like rape and murder has impaled justice on the horns of a dilemma and left Ranchi’s men in uniform grappling with terrible predicament.
“Every month, more than 50 juvenile delinquents are caught. They are either released from police station with a warning or forwarded to the Juvenile Justice Board, depending on the kind of crime committed. An adult wrong-doer may have invited imprisonment, but we have to show leniency in case of juveniles even if the crime is as shameful and serious as rape,” a man in uniform posted at the police headquarters voices his force’s concern.
Officer-in-charge of Argora police station Arvind Kumar Singh echoed him. “Take for example petty thefts at mobile phone stores; in most of these cases, young boys are involved. When they land in police net, their parents and rights activists demand that we go easy on them because they are just kids,” he said, hinting that only warning and absence of proper rehabilitation could one day turn these children into notorious outlaws.
SSP Bhimsen Tuti admitted grey areas in the law of the country when it came to dealing with juveniles involved in grave offences like sexual assault, rape, murder and abduction. He squarely blamed poor parenting for the growing number of delinquents below the age of 18.
“Home and society have crucial roles to play in the upbringing of a child. Parents should be held responsible if youngsters are caught in the wrong act. Prevention of the scourge is what we need before we seek cure in the shape of laws,” he said.
State Commission for Protection of Child Rights member Sanjay Mishra, who has taken up over 1,700 cases of children in conflict with the law between 2005 and 2013 when he was on the Juvenile Justice Board, also held guardians responsible for troubled childhood.
Deriving from his experiences in Maoist-hit Latehar, Palamau, Lohardaga, Gumla, Simdega and Garhwa districts, besides Ranchi, Mishra said: “Most of the time, children who commit crimes are under the influence of adult lawbreakers. These people know juvenile laws and hence, use children to escape the police dragnet.
“Parents should keep strict vigil on their wards both inside and outside home. They must not let outside forces influence a child’s unripe mind.”