Orissa: Torture and sexual abuse forced juveniles to flee Berhampur Observation Home

New Delhi: In its fact-finding report, “Orissa: Juveniles fleeing from torture and abuse” (http://www.achrweb.org/reports/india/JJ-Orissa-012010.pdf) released today, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) stated that “juveniles in the Berhampur Observation Home in Orissa are  routinely subjected to violence that constitutes torture and other forms of ill treatment while younger ones, are routinely subjected to sexual abuse both by the staff and adult inmates”. The report was prepared based on  a fact-finding mission to the Berhampur Observation Home in Ganjam district from 29 September to 1 October 2010 after the escape of 10 juveniles on the intervening night of 21-22 September 2010.

The fact-finding report also found that there were at least three adults including one Mr Dora Nayak, 32 years staying at the Berhampur Observation Home, thereby increasing the risks of abuse against the juveniles. Further, different classifications of juveniles - juveniles in conflict with law, orphans and/or abandoned children - live together in the bservation Home. “Criminal contamination” has been completely underestimated.

The conditions in the Observation Home are deplorable.  There are only one toilet, two bathrooms and 40 poorly maintained beds for 88 juveniles living currently in the Home. Sometimes, the number of juveniles increases upto 150 and they have to live with extremely low hygiene standards that place the juveniles at risk of disease. The doctor seldom visits the Observation Home.

“There is clear evidence of corruption and misuse of funds intended for the welfare of inmates of the detention facility” - stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights.

A First Information Report (No. 155, dated 22/09/2010) was registered at Baidyanathpur Police Station against the escaped juveniles to make a lesson out of this incident for other inmates.

In its report, the Asian Centre for Human Rights stated that the State of Orissa failed to implement the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. No inspection of the Observation Homes takes place and therefore, adults continue to stay in the Observation Home.

On 1 October 2010, the ACHR filed a complaint with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) with the request to consider its findings at the Berhampur Observation Home as an emblematic case of failure of the administration of juvenile justice in Orissa. The ACHR also requested the NCPCR to send its investigation team to urgently investigate alleged torture and sexual assault/harassment of the inmates at Berhampur Observation Home, take appropriate actions and address the imminent risk of almost certain abuse and torture faced by the juveniles who were captured after their escape.

The ACHR further recommended  to review the FIR filed against the escaped juveniles especially considering the fact that at least six of the escaped juveniles had no case pending against them and they were staying in the Observation Home as abandoned/orphaned children; order an investigation as to how adults are being kept at the Berhampur Observation Home and remove them with immediate effect; and separate different categories of juveniles in order to reduce “criminal contamination” as identified under the Beijing Rules and provide facilities for bed, nutritious food, drinking water, toilets, bathrooms etc as per the Orissa Juvenile Justice Rules 2002 and educational facilities as per the Right to Education Act, 2010. [Ends]

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