Himachal Pradesh - Juveniles being denied access to justice
New Delhi: The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) in its fact finding report, “The State of Juvenile Justice in Himachal Pradesh” (http://www.achrweb.org/reports/india/JJ-HP-2012.pdf) stated that juveniles in Himachal Pradesh are effectively being denied access to justice.
For its 12 districts, Himachal Pradesh has only one Observation Cum Special Home for Boys and Girls at Samoor Kalan under Una district. At the time of ACHR’s field visit, it was found that there were 10 juveniles hailing from from Chamba, Solan, Kangra, Shimla, Kullu and Una districts and they were required to be regularly produced before the Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) in various districts of the State. At times, a particular juvenile is needed to be produced three to four times in a month. The situation worsens when the Chairperson of the JJB (a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class) is absent and the hearing is postponed.”- stated ACHR.
“Astonishingly, the officials of the Observation cum Special Home are required to arrange funds from their own pockets for the appearance of the juveniles before the JJBs though the state government later on reimburses the expenses. The officials nonetheless face acute financial crisis. The travel funds allocated for the Observation Home have been reduced from Rs 44,000 during 2010-11 to Rs 20,600 during 2011-12.”
Recognising the problems with the lone Observation cum Special Home, a “Court Room” has been constructed at the first floor of the Observation Home cum Special Home for Boys and Girls at Samoor Kalan, Una but no sitting has been held there.
ACHR stated that the pendency before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJBs) remains significant. For example, there were 162 cases pending before the JJB in Kangra district as of 23 January 2012, 110 cases before the JJB in Una district as of December 2011 and 89 cases before JJB in Shimla district as of November 2011.
However, the number of sittings in a number of JJBs was inadequate. The JJB at Chamba had lowest 48 cases and highest 65 cases pending between June 2010 and June 2011 but the JJB had maximum of three sittings per month during this period.
There is no segregation of the juveniles at the lone Observation Home-cum-Special Home at Una as well as of the children in need of care and protection at various Children Homes across the state. Similarly, separation of children is not maintained at some Children Homes such as Balika Ashram–cum-Children Home at Mashobra, Shimla district, Bal Ashram-cum-Children Home at Masli, Shimla district and Children Home at Sunder Nagar, Mandi district.
Six out of seven Government Children Homes namely (1) Bal Ashram-cum-Children Home, Sujanpur, Hamirpur district, (2) Balika Asharam-cum-Children Home, Garli, Paragpur, Kangra district, (3) Children Home, Sunder Nagar, Mandi district, (4) Balika Ashram-cum-Children Home, Mashobra, Shimla district, (5) Bal Ashram-cum-Children Home, Masli, Shimla district, and (6) Bal Ashram-cum-Children Home, Tutikandi, Shimla did not have any teacher posted to provide education to the children.
Some of the Children Homes have been found to be under-staffed which impacts care and protection of the inmates. A number of crucial staff positions have not been appointed/filled up such as (1) the post of Superintendent and the post of Warden at Bal Ashram-cum-Children Home, Sujanpur, Hamirpur district, (2) the Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent at the Balika Ashram-cum-Children Home, Garli, Kangra district, and (3) the post of Assistant Superintendent (no post of Superintendent has been sanctioned) at Bal Ashram –cum-Children Home, Masli, Shimla district.
No social auditing to “monitor and evaluate the functioning of the children's homes” as provided for under Section 36 of the JJ(C&PC) Act has been done.
According to the data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Himachal Pradesh registered 159 cases of juvenile delinquency under the Indian Penal Code in 2010, 127 cases in 2009, 122 cases in 2008, 118 cases in 2007, 102 cases in 2006, and 136 cases in 2005. In addition, under the Special and Local Laws, nine cases were registered against juveniles in 2010, eight cases in 2009, one case in 2008, nil in 2007, five case in 2006 and nine cases in 2005.
Asian Centre for Human Rights recommended to the Himachal Pradesh Government to (1) establish Observation and Special Homes in every district and in the meantime, issue necessary directions to conduct the hearing in the “Court Room” constructed at the first floor of the Observation Home cum Special Home for Boys and Girls at Samoor Kalan, Una ; (2) increase the number of sittings of the Juvenile Justice Board at Chamba district; (3) conduct social auditing to “monitor and evaluate the functioning of the children's homes”; (4) ensure segregation of the juveniles and children in need of care and protection as per the JJ(C&PC) Act; (5) provide proper educational facilities including issuance of certificates on completion of the academic year; and (6) fill up the vacancies of staff in various Children Homes.