Juvenile justice in Manipur suspended because of corruption

Guwahati/New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights in its latest report , “Manipur: Juvenile Justice Suspended”, released today claimed that juvenile justice has been suspended in Manipur by the Ministry of Women and Child Development because of corruption and mis-use of the resources.  The State Government of Manipur claimed that the Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) have been set up in all nine Districts and the Project Approval Board (PAB) for the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) of the Ministry of Women and Child Development in its 14th meeting on 22nd February 2011 approved grants for nine JJBs. However, as the State government failed to establish the JJBs, the PAB in its 35th Meeting held on 17 January 2012 had no other option but to stop funding to the JJBs for the current Financial Year 2012-2013.

“The service delivery for institutional care is an astounding case of total mis-use of resources. For the first year grant under the IPCS i.e. for 2009-2010, the complete grant was shown to have been utilized by the State Government even though no staff has been appointed to State Project Support Unit, State Child Protection Society (SCPS) etc. The officials of the State Government of Manipur informed that “equipment has been purchased in advance”. It is clear that the funds provided for providing services to children have been diverted for equipments! If that was not enough, the entire grant received under ICPS for 2010-11 too has been claimed to have been utilised, even though no staff has been appointed to SCPS, District Child Protection Units (DCPU) and State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA).” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The Manipur Government claimed that there are more than 3000 children in the State who are affected by armed conflict, ethnic clashes, orphan children and children living with HIV/AIDS. The situations of the Children Homes are far from being satisfactory. Given that no Inspection Committee has been set up as required under the JJ(C&PC) Act, the situations in the Homes established under the Act remain deplorable.

Asian Centre for Human Rights stated that Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act prevails over any other national security legislation including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958. However, the Central security forces do not have any knowledge about the JJ(C&PC) Act and children have been regularly apprehended, detained and subjected to torture while many were killed in fake encounters in clear violations of the JJ(C&PC) Act.

The report cited 14 cases of extrajudicial execution of children by the Central and the State security forces.

Citing one emblematic case of abuse of the JJ(C&PC) Act, ACHR stated from 14 February to 1 March 2012, four persons including three minors identified as Sonkhopao Mate (15 years), Ngamminlun Mate (17 years) and Ngambom Haokip (17 years) were arbitrary arrested and illegally detained in the custody of 36th Assam Rifles and at Lamphel police station in Imphal. The personnel of the 36th Assam Rifles arrested them on 14 February 2012 after a civilian Gajendra Singh pointed his finger at the three minors and one adult villager stating that they are the one who murdered his friend and business partner Mangal Ram. Gajendra Singh and the deceased were running a civil canteen (Variety store) under the 36th AR and their canteen was situated inside the AR camp at Sehlon village. Later, the children were sent to judicial custody at Sajiwa Central Prison in clear violation of the provisions of the JJ(C&PC) Act, 2000.  Even the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal West sent them to the prison without verifying their age. In the meanwhile, the investigation into the murder of Mangal Ram [FIR No. 2(2) of 2012] registered at the Molcham Police Station under Sections 302/34/195/203 of Indian Penal Code was continuing. After investigation, the Police arrested Gajendra Singh, who pointed fingers to the juveniles, and three others for the murder of civilian canteen owner late Mangal Ram. They have been sent to jail. It is clear that the arrested juveniles had nothing to do with the murder case but had to undergo the trauma.

In the entire State of Manipur, there is only one Government run Observation cum Special Home at Takyelpat in capital Imphal whereas the Army and para-military forces are deployed all over the State. This indicates that children who are apprehended by the Army and para-military forces are not produced before the Juvenile Justice Boards and Observation Homes but detained in their camps and in the best circumstances sent to the police lock up or prisons.

Only on paper, the state government of Manipur constituted Special Juvenile Police Units as their functioning remained confined to mere notification.

There are reports of ill-treatment of children in the Children Homes. On 15 September 2011, eight inmates of Destitute Children Home run by Leprosy Patients’ Welfare Society (LEWS) at Chingmeirong Lei-Inkhol in Imphal East district fled after allegedly being subjected to ill-treatment by owner of the Home identified as Ahanthem Tolen. The inmates, all under 12 years, fled in the wee hours as they could not bear the ill-treatment. The Government of Manipur confirmed to the Asian Centre for Human Rights that the inmates of this Home were transferred to a government institution due to a complaint lodged against the Home. But no action under the JJ(C&PC) Act was taken against the accused.

Further, in the absence of adequate Homes, children in need of care and protection have to be kept in a building attached to the Observation cum Special Home at Takyelpat in Imphal. Presently, at least 21 children in need of care and protection have been kept in a separate building in the Government Observation cum Special Home at Takyelpat in Imphal until further arrangement is found for them. These children in need of care and protection were shifted from the Children Home in Imphal East district.

Asian Centre for Human Rights recommended to the State Government of Manipur to issue a direction to the Army and para-military forces who are legally bound to operate in aid of and under the civil administration to ensure full respect and compliance with the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000 while dealing with children; operationalise the existing Special Juvenile Police Units, Juvenile Justice Boards and the Inspection Committees in letter and spirit and provide updated information on the website of the Social Welfare Department to ensure transparency, accountability and accessibility; provide adequate human and financial resources to the JJBs and Inspection Committees and the Child Welfare Committees; register a case under the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000 with respect to ill-treatment of children at Children Homes’ including in the Destitute Children Homes run by the Leprosy Patients’ Welfare Society (LEWS); establish at least one Juvenile Observation Home and one Special Home in each district of Manipur; and conduct training programme for the judges appointed under the State Judicial Services on the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

ACHR also recommended to the Ministry of Women and Child Development  to conduct an inquiry into the mis-use of resources for purposes other than stipulated including non-appointment of the staffs under the IPCS; develop Guidelines to provide that the IPCS funds are “non-divertible and non-lapsable”; conduct a field investigation following submission of reports by the State Government about the constitution of the Juvenile Justice Boards before approval of further grants; direct the State Government of Manipur to establish at least one Juvenile Observation Home and one Special Home in each district of Manipur; and direct the State Government of Manipur to conduct training programme for the judges appointed under the State Judicial Services on the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000. [Ends]

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