ACHR PRESS RELEASE

ACHR INDEX: PR/IND/02/2013
Date: 28 January 2013

Children tortured in police custody in Assam

- juvenile justice in shambles -

New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights while releasing its report, “Assam: The State of Juvenile Justice” (http://www.achrweb.org/reports/india/JJ-Assam-2012.pdf) stated that children are routinely tortured in police custody and juvenile justice is in shambles in the State. Assam has been consistently ranking top in juvenile delinquency among the eight north eastern states and in 2011, Assam topped the list with 405 cases.

The report stated that there is acute shortage of homes for juveniles in conflict with the law as well as children in need of care and protection. Assam has 27 districts but there are only four Observation Homes and three Children Homes run by the state. These homes are confined to Kamrup, Nagaon and Jorhat districts while the shelter homes run by NGOs are located in Guwahati. The Jorhat Observation Home set up in 1987 caters to over 11 districts — Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sivasagar, Lakhimpur, Darrang, Udalguri and Sonitpur. Trafficking prone districts like Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang, Bongaigaon etc do not have any home.

“Assam’s negligence of juvenile justice is astounding. It failed to set up 7 new Open Shelters during 2011 despite availability of funds under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme of the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Because of this failure the Project Approval Board of the Ministry of Women and Child Development declined to accept the request for grants for 3 existing Open Shelters at the 45th PAB meeting on 11th July 2012 under the ICPS.” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) constituted in all 27 districts of the state remain almost non-functional. Out of the 596 cases registered in 18 districts of Assam during 1st January 2011-31st December 2011, 347 cases were pending. The State Child Protection Society (SCPS), Assam failed to specifically provide the total number of reviews done by the State Government on the pendency of cases before each of the CWCs since their constitution.

Assam has constituted Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) in all 27 districts but their functioning remains seriously problematic. As of 11th July 2012, about 1,635 cases were pending before the JJBs. Information received under the Right to Information Act, 2005 revealed that percentage of pendency of cases before the JJBs range from minimum 33.3% in Udalguri district to maximum of 100% in Dhemaji and Morigaon district followed by 90.2% in Goalpara district and 79.3% in Darrang district.

The problem is compounded by the lack of review of the pendency of cases of the JJBs by the Chief Judicial Magistrates (CJMs) as required under section 14(2) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2006. Replies received from JJBs under the RTI Act stated that not a single review of the pendency of cases before the JJBs has been conducted by the CMM or CJM in Kokrajhar, Dibrugarh, Darrang, Lakhimpur, Udalguri, Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta, Golaghat, Morigaon, Chirang, Dhemaji and Nagaon districts from date of their constitution till 30th March 2012.

Children are routinely tortured in police custody.

Case 1: SP of Sivasagar shielding the torturer

On 11 June 2009, two juvenile victims (names withheld) were picked by a police team led by Jitumoni Boro, Officer-in-charge of Nitaiphukuri police outpost picked up on the accusation of stealing mobile phone recharge cards following a complaint lodged by their neighbour Biren Phukan. Both the victims were detained in the police station, stripped and tortured throughout the night.  The police allegedly rubbed chillies on their bodies and forced it down their throats. The chilies, locally called as “bhot jolokia or naga jolokia”, are reportedly the hottest chilies in the world.

ACHR intervened with the National Human Rights Commission (http://www.nhrc.nic.in/display.asp?fno=53/3/15/09-10) which directed the Superintendent of Police, Sivasagar district to submit report on the matter. In its order dated 3rd August 2012, the NHRC directed the SP, Sivasagar to send clarifications on the following points raised by Asian Centre for Human Rights:- i) He claims that Debananda Hazarika, the father of Hinda Hazarik (name changed), had also been illegally detained overnight, though there was no complaint against him; the Commission sees no reference to this in the police record, and asks the SP to confirm if indeed this was true. ii) Hinda Hazarika was a minor, aged around 16 when the incident took place. If so, under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and. Protection of Children) Act 2000, he could not have been detained at a police station. The SP must clarify this point. iii) The enquiry report claims that neighbours of the victims had been interviewed but had refuted the allegations of torture. Since the alleged torture took place in the police outpost, it was pointless to ask the neighbours to corroborate the claim and wrong to reach a conclusion on the basis of their statements. The man who was present was Debananda Hazarika, and he has confirmed the fact of torture. iii) The torture was carried out, according to the victims, by rubbing chilies into their eyes and anus. It is possible that no traces were left when they were medically examined three days after the event, but the Commission also notes that the examination itself was so cursory that the doctor did not even record the ages of his patients on the examination slip. There is nothing to show that he had examined the areas of the bodies on which the torture was inflicted. The enquiry report did not consider the nature of the torture alleged and accepted a perfunctory note from the doctor. v) Though these boys were released on the 22nd June 2009, the same SI arrested them again on the 23rd June, in connection with Demow Police station, case no. 75/09. Details of this case have not been given, but the victims have said this was a false case. On this arrest too, the police were at fault in that a minor was not produced before a Juvenile Justice Board.”

“The SP, Sivasagar has failed to submit the clarifications and appears to be shielding the torturers.” – stated Mr Chakma further.

Case 2: Assam directed to pay compensation to a child victim of torture

On 16 August 2009, about 12-year-old Master Yogender Saikia (name changed) of Sanitpur village was tortured by Manoj Boruah, Officer In-Charge at the Chungajan police station in Golaghat district of Assam. ACHR intervened with the National Human Rights Commission (http://www.nhrc.nic.in/display.asp?fno=135/3/22/09-10) which ruled that “it is undisputed that Master Yogender Saikia (name changed) was brought to the police station without his involvement in any criminal case and he was tortured by Sub-Inspector Manoj Baruah, the then Office-in-charge of Chungajan Police station. No entries were made in the General Diary in this regard. Thus, there was an apparent violation of human rights of the victim boy by the public servant by misusing his office, for which he must be compensated under the provision of the Protection of Human Rights, 1993”. The NHRC recommended an amount of Rs.50,000 as compensation to the victim child Master Yogender Saikia (name changed) s/o Pradip Saikia for breach of his human rights.

In order to address the crisis with the administration of juvenile justice, Asian Centre for Human Rights recommended to the State Government of Assam and the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India to establish adequate Observation Homes, Special Homes and Children Homes to cover and reach out to each of the 27 districts of Assam; strengthen the infrastructure needs such as buildings, bathrooms/toilets, sick room, study centers, playground as well as adequate staff like educators, vocational trainers and other staff to the existing juveniles homes; ensure that the sittings of the JJBs are held regularly as provided under Rule 9 (3) of the Assam Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2011 in order to end pendency of cases; ensure regular review of the pendency of cases of the JJBs by the Chief Judicial Magistrate or CMM as required under section 14(2) of the JJ (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2006; ensure full enforcement of penal provisions viz. Sections 23-27 of the JJ (C&P) Act, 2000 (as amended in 2006) to prevent violations of the rights of the juveniles in conflict with law as well as children in need of care and protection and conduct capacity building and training for all members of JJBs, CWCs, Inspection Committees at the State, District and City level, the Probation Officers and the law enforcement officials in the state. [Ends]