India: Cops not doing their bit in protecting child rights
HYDERABAD: Police have an important role to play in protection of child rights in the state, at least going by the provisions of Juvenile Justice Act (JJ Act). As per the Act, apart from Special Juvenile Police Units (SJPU) which are to be created at the district level, a Child Welfare Officer (CWO) has to be deputed at every police station to deal with minors who are in conflict with law or those in need of care and protection.
These provisions, however, seem to be only on paper. For instance, a survey by TOI revealed that not a single police station in the South Zone had any officer playing the role of a CWO.
While cops in police stations like Nampally, Kacheguda, Moghalpura, Falaknuma, were clueless on the very existence of a CWO post, the inspector at Chandrayangutta said that such an officer was appointed but was recently promoted and so the post was lying vacant. The inspector at Chatrinaka simply said he was aware of “a proposal to create such a post.” However, the JJ Act clearly states that the inspector of a police station by default assumes the charge of a CWO. This reflects how uninformed the force is of this crucial law to protect child rights.
Explaining the role and purpose of CWOs, director of Juvenile Justice Board Kismat Kumar, said, “A CWO is supposed to guide a child rescued or remanded by the police from the moment he or she is taken into custody, through the court proceedings till the final judgment is passed. All designated CWOs are provided with training and orientation to safeguard the rights of children as envisaged in the JJ Act.” But when informed that there was no awareness about CWOs in police stations, he was unwilling to comment further.
Phillip Issidore, child activist and chairperson, Child Welfare Committee, Hyderabad, said,”The police are supposed to refer a rescued child to us and we take up the case from there. But in the last one and a half years, there hasn’t been a single referral through police. The only referrals we get are through NGOs like Child Line which in turn get references from Government Railway Police, that being the only police department even trying to address the issue.”
The situation is similar across the state. Magistrate Durga Prasad who is chairperson of Juvenile Justice Board said, “The role of police in the state is not in accordance to the JJ Act. Child labour cases are rarely taken up by the cops. They take up only criminal cases and instead of providing protection to the children, they often illegally detain and torture them. Hardly 20% of the cops across the state function as per their duty when it comes to juvenile justice.”
A regular visitor at the children home at Saidabad, Durga Prasad cites a particular case where a child was brutally tortured with his hands hung from the window at a police station for 22 days. Only after a child rights activist got a whiff of the matter did the police produce him in court and before doing so threatened him with ‘dire consequences’ if he spoke anything about the torture to the judge.
He added that in violation of the JJ Act, police purposefully do not create any awareness about free legal aid which any remanded child can lawfully avail. “Instead they have a nexus with practicing lawyers whom they force upon the child and charge huge amount of money for the same,” he said.
Responding to these allegations, IG, CID, Umapati said, “Any person assuming charge as a SHO of a police station automatically becomes a CWO. A rescued child is forwarded to Issidore Phillip and if a child is remanded, juvenile crime bureau takes charge.” Speaking about legal aid, he denied any nexus between the cops and the lawyers and assured that all children receive free legal service.
Reference : Times of India