At remand home, innocence is the first casualty

He is 14 years old and was brought to the Government Observation Home in Madiwala last week after he was arrested on charges of attempt to rape and murder a one-and-a-half-year old girl. The boy says he has been “framed” by the child’s father, who is the main “accused.”

Sunil (name changed) is the most recent entrant to the GOH, Madiwala meant for children in conflict with the law. There are at present 37 boys in the age group of 14 and 18 years, most of who are accused of hei­nous crimes like murder and rape and are being tried under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Chi­ldren) Act, 2000 by Juvenile Justice Board.

A visit to the Home on Children’s Day, was an eye-opener.

Tucked away by the bustling vegetable market in Madiwala, close to the police station, the home gives an insight into the lives of children, who reportedly took law into their hands. Though they hail from different families, their backgrounds are similar. All of them belong to the socially and economic weaker sections of the society with either a drunkard and abusive father or no father at all.

Steve is 17 years old and holds the record of being the longest standing inm­ate of the Home. He was arrested early this year under Sec 376 of the IPC for rep­ortedly raping a minor gi­rl on two occasions. He denied the charge and said he was framed by the victim, who was known to him.

Official sources say Steve was part of a group of boys, who gang raped the 16-year-old from the neighbourhood. “She has identified him and has testified against him before the JJB,” said an officer.

“He is 17 years old and may have succumbed to peer pressure. Most boys, who are lodged in the observation home, are adolescents. They have no sound family background or role models. Quite a few are also school drop-outs," he said.

A group of five boys accused of murdering Dominic - an evening college student near the Ulsoor Lake early this month, told this newspaper that they were unaware of the murder plot and had only accompanied the killer on two wheelers.

Another boy stabbed an old man for abusing him at a public place and exhibits no remorse. "The old man was drunk and abusive. I stabbed him and ran away. Later the police came to my house and brought me here," he said.

Under the JJ Act, cases against children should be over within four months since the time of 'arrest.' If a child pleads guilty; his statement is recorded in the court and he is granted bail with or without surety. He has to however, periodically appear before the JJB.

If a child pleads innocence; then the prosecution starts and witnesses are called for examination. If convicted he is put through group counseling and every effort is made to rehabilitate him, said Father Anthony Sebastian, director, Empowerment of Children & Human Rights Organisation (Echo) and a second term member of the JJB, who added that most of the children, who break the law come from broken homes.

"We are doing a research of around 2,500 children, who have been in conflict with law, from Bengaluru (rural) and (urban), Chikkaballapur, Tumkur, Kolar and Ramanagaram districts.

Almost all of them come from broken homes. Sometimes children are also used by criminals and in turn, given some petty gratification,” he added.

Many such children are rehabilitated and are now contributing to society.

But others fall through the chinks in the system. "There are another 15 boys convicted for murder, who are lodged in a special home at Sumanahalli because they could not be rehabilitated,” admits Mr. Sebastian.

(Names of children are changed to protect identity)

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