Over 4 lakh children in the CCIs remain at high risks, says NCAT

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By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) in its report released on Tuesday, “Torture & Sexual Abuse of Children in India”, released on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, stated that about 96 children are tortured and sexually assaulted everyday in India while over 4 lakh children residing in the Child Care Institutions (CCIs), the dens of torture and sexual abuses, remain at high risks.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its Crime in India-2017 recorded torture of 4,857 children and sexual assault of 30,123 children during the year i.e. a total of 34,980 victims or about 96 children being victimised every day.

TORTURE OF CHILRDREN: Madhya Pradesh tops the list followed by Assam

“That the NCRB for the first time reported cases of torture of children including by the police under Section 330 and 331 of the Indian Penal Code in its ‘Crime in India-2017’ is welcome.” – stated Suhas Chakma, Coordinator of the NCAT.

In 2017, the highest number of cases of torture of children was reported from Madhya Pradesh (1,638 victims) followed by Assam (1,127 victims), Maharashtra (377 victims), Chhattisgarh (370 victims), Uttar Pradesh (244 victims), West Bengal (247 victims), Tamil Nadu (179 victims), Kerala (178 victims), Delhi (97 victims) and Andhra Pradesh (120 victims), among others.

“Though Section 10(1) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 [JJ Act, 2015] specifically states that in no case, a child alleged to be in conflict with law shall be placed in a police lockup or lodged in a jail, in reality children are still detained in the police lock ups regularly and tortured to extract confessions. The cases of custodial death of a 17-year-old minor boy in the custody of the Government Railway Police, Wadala in Mumbai, Maharashtra on 13 April 2019 and 17- year-old son of Brijendra Singh Rana at the Sidcul police station in Rudrapur city in Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttarakhand on 11 July 2019 show rampant use of torture against children.” – further stated Mr Chakma.

Many States and Union Territories have failed to set up adequate number of Observation Homes to house the juveniles during trial by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) and detention of children in police lock ups is a common practice. There are 718 districts in India, but as per the latest data available, as on 3 August 2018, India had only 301 Observation Homes, 31 Special Homes, 21 Observation Cum Special Homes, and 9 Place of Safety. It implies that 396 districts did not have Observation Homes, 666 districts did not have Special Homes and 709 districts did not have Place of Safety to house the juveniles in conflict with law and consequently, the juveniles remain at risks at the hands of the police.

Citing the case of Arunachal Pradesh, the NCAT stated, “The Central government had provided Rs 116.99 lakhs during 2014-15 and Rs 253.49 lakhs during 2015-16 to Arunachal Pradesh Government for construction of two Observation & Special Homes.  But the state government of Arunachal Pradesh has constructed only one Observation cum Special Home as on date meant to house juveniles from 25 districts. There is no separation between prisons and police stations in the State as most districts do not have any jail and there is only one Observation Cum Special Home for the entire state. In the absence of Observation Home, juveniles are invariably kept in police lock ups or prisons.”

SEXUAL ASSAULT ON CHILRDREN:

About 4 lakh children residing in the Child Care Institutions remain at high risks of torture and sexual assault. Though the JJ Act, 2015 requires mandatory registration of the CCIs and the Supreme Court in its order on 5th May 2017 directed to ensure registration of all the CCIs or close down those institutions which decline to register, the Government of India does not have the real time data on the CCIs. On 11 July 2019, the Ministry of Women and Child Development informed the Rajya Sabha that there were 7,909 CCIs in the country registered under the JJ Act but it had data of children staying only on 2,089 CCIs and no data on 5,820 CCIs, exposing serious protection gaps for children.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had registered 62 complaints against torture and sexual exploitation of children in the CCIs from 2014-15 to 2018-19.  But these cases are only the tip of the iceberg.

Time and again the investigation reports of the NGOs, the NCPCR and academic institutions about the lack of minimum standard of care and incidents of torture, sexual exploitation, sex trade, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment have been regularly brushed aside under the carpet by the authorities.

 The Bihar government commissioned the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to conduct a social audit of the CCIs and the TISS exposed massive scale of inhuman torture and sexual abuse of the residents particularly girls in the shelter homes. However, little actions were taken until the Muzzafarpur shelter home case shocked the conscience of the nation as medical reports confirmed sexual assault of 34 out of 44 minor girls and revelation by the police that the girls, aged between 7 and 18 years, had been repeatedly raped, tortured, cut, beaten and locked up at this Girls’ Children Home at Muzzafarpur.

“There are far too many Muzzafarpur type shelter homes in the country. The NCPCR had registered 203 complaints of inmates fleeing from the CCIs to escape alleged physical torture, sexual assaults and unhygienic conditions during 2014-15 to 2017-18. There is obviously a need to send a clear message against such grave violations but to a large extent, it depends on the final prosecution in all the 17 shelter homes in Bihar named in the TISS report which are being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation under the direction of the Supreme Court.” – also stated Mr Chakma.

INDIA URGED TO RATIFY AMEND JJ ACT, 2015 TO PROHIBIT TORTURE:

The JJ Act of 2015 does not use the term torture while the torture of children including by the police is routine across India and the data is being currently being recorded by the NCRB.

The NCAT urged the Government of India to amend the JJ Act, 2015 to prohibit torture of children as defined under Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT), ratify the UNCAT and bring a stand-alone national law against torture.

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