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Cases pile up in correctional homes for kids

Patna, Aug. 7: The age factor has always been a tricky affair in the state with adults involved in criminal offences taking an advantage by posing as juveniles.

Imanuddin Ahmed, director, social welfare, said several cases have been pending related to juveniles.

Yesterday, the Centre passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, which has proposed treating minors who are older than 16 years as adults if charged with serious criminal offences like rape or murder. The bill states that the juvenile justice boards will decide whether the minor can be tried as an adult in a regular court. At present, a minor (below 18 years) are tried by the board and if convicted, sent to the juvenile home for a maximum of three years. The bill adds that the accused will however not be sentenced to life or given a death penalty, if found guilty.

“Bihar is one among the few states which has a juvenile justice board in each district. In the state, there is only one special home in Patna. This special home is for those who have been convicted and their number rests at just around 100,” Ahmed said.

Another official of the social welfare department said: “Around 35 to 40 per cent of boys at the Patna home are facing charges of serious criminal incidents like rape and murder. They all are undertrials, at present. Still, there are around 20,000 cases which are pending.”

At present, the state has 10 juvenile homes with around 500 inmates who are all undertrials. “There are many cases in which adults above 18 years and involved in a serious criminal act are successful in getting into the bracket of a juvenile,” another official said.

The sources in the department further explained. “In Bihar, it is comparatively easier to make a false date of birth certificate than other states. In most of the cases, the accused always has the matriculation or birth certificate to prove that he in an underage. It is not also challenged by the victims as they don’t have much awareness about the Juvenile Justice Act. If one feels that the proof of age the accused is showing is false, it can be always challenged in the lower or high court. If the court feels, it can order for a medical board to be set up and determine the age of the accused,” another official said.

On May 4, 2011, police recovered the body of 15-year-old Rohit Kumar, a schoolboy, who had been kidnapped by two of his friends, both of the same age, and brutally murdered. The accused had kidnapped him for ransom but then had panicked and killed Rohit by slitting his throat with a blade.

On June 14 last year, a girl was lured into a flat in the Rajvanshi Nagar area by her boyfriend and then gang-raped by seven youths, including her boyfriend. They also filmed the act. “Her boyfriend was an adult, police believe. But his family furnished certificates of him being a minor,” an officer said.