| Orissa High Court |
Cuttack, Sept. 17: Orissa High Court has issued notices to the state government on a PIL seeking judicial intervention against the alleged subjection of juveniles to routine sexual abuse and violence at the state-run observation home in Berhampur.
Kunja Bihari Patra, 40, a Puri-based research fellow in Global Human Rights Communications (GHRC), has alleged that adults are allowed to stay at the observation home and majority of the juveniles — who are charged with murder, attempt to murder and theft — are held in the same facilities as abandoned and orphan children. “It poses danger to juveniles of criminal contamination,” the PIL contends, seeking an inquiry into the functioning of the observation home.
“Admitting the PIL, the two-judge bench of Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice B.N. Mohapatra issued notices to secretary of the home department, and secretary of the women and child welfare department yesterday to file the counter within two weeks,” petitioner counsel Ashis Kumar Mishra told The Telegraph today.
“The Ganjam collector and the superintendent of the home were also issued notices to file their respective responses within the same time,” Mishra said. The Orissa government had failed to ensure separation of juveniles as required under the Juveniles Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, said the petition.
The government has also failed to provide adequate facilities for bed, food, drinking water, toilets and bathrooms following the Orissa Juvenile Justice Rules, 2002, and education facilities according to the Right to Education Act, 2010. There is only one toilet, two bathrooms and 44 poorly maintained beds for the 88 inmates.
At least three adults are among the inmates. Sometimes, the number of members at the observation home goes up to 150. The doctor seldom visits, the petition alleged on the basis of a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR). The ACHR had conducted an inquiry after 10 juveniles escaped from the home on the intervening night of September 21 and 22, 2010.
The 10 boys had fled after beating up the head guard with a cricket bat. On September 22, police caught seven of them from a local bus station.
Two others managed to escape while another was caught later. Six of the juveniles had no case pending against them and they were staying in the observation home as abandoned or orphan children.