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POLICING AND THE JJCPA

The JJCPA mandated that each state was to set up Special Juvenile Police Units (SJPU) in every district and city to coordinate various aspects of the police-juvenile interface. In every police station, at least one police officer should be designated as “juvenile” or “child welfare” officer. These officers are members of SJPU. Each unit must have two paid social workers. The central government provides financial assistance to state governments to set up these units (Chakraborty, n.d.).

If the juvenile was brought before the JJB by persons or agencies other than SJPU, they must inform the concerned police station or SJPU. The apprehended juvenile must be brought before JJB within 24 h. If the Board was not in session, the juvenile could be presented before a single member of the Board. At that time, the SJPU or the police must provide details about the case, including what were the reasons for the arrest, whether the juvenile was kept in police lockup or jail, and whether parents or guardians were notified about the juvenile’s arrest. If a juvenile was not released on bail, he or she should be kept in an observation home until he or she can be brought before the Board (Adenwalla 2006). With the best interest of the child as its priority, the JJB ensures that the SJPU also “promote[s] the well-being of the juvenile and avoid harm to her or him” (“the Beijing Rules”) (United Nations General Assembly 1985: 64).

As stated above, more than 65 % of the children detained were apprehended for “theft” in 2014. (The commission of theft by such a large percentage of children is obviously due to poor economic conditions.) Such underprivileged children have to undergo many hardships at the hands of the agencies of the juvenile justice system, including the police. Despite what the JJCPA establishes, the findings of a study conducted by Srinivasan (2010) determined that the police physically and verbally abused more than 60 % of the children after their apprehension. It should also be noted that a vast majority of children were kept in a police station between 1 and 5 days. Moreover, none of the children was allowed to meet with probation officers or lawyers at the police station. As stated earlier, practices such as detaining the children in a police station, physically or verbally abusing them, or not allowing them to meet with probation officers or lawyers at the police station are a violation of procedures established by law. The practices adopted by the police are also in contravention of international standards and procedures.

Regarding the provision of bail for children in conflict with the law, more than 85 % of the children said that they were not released on bail. According to Section 18(1) of JJA (1986):

When any person accused of a bailable or non-bailable offense, and apparently a juvenile is arrested or detained or appears or is brought before a Board, such person shall, notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) or in any other law for the time being in force, be released on bail with or without surety....

Given that this is the legal position, it is puzzling why children, particularly given that the majority was charged for the offense of theft, were not released on bail. It is a matter of concern.

To prevent police abuse of power, the 2015 JJCPA included provisions that allow the JJB to conduct an inquiry concerning any ill-treatment of the children by the police, or any other individuals dealing with children such as a lawyer or probation officer.

 
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