From lodging girls in boys’ homes to inmates of juvenile homes being abused by the very people who are meant to protect them, the situation of juveniles in Karnataka is not only appalling, it is in fact scary. The situation in the juvenile justice homes in the state are so atrocious that many of the children in conflict with the law and those in need of care are either committing suicide or making valiant efforts to do so.
The glaring facts have emerged from a hard-hitting report, The State of Juvenile Justice in Karnataka, released on Thursday by the New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR). The report, the bulk of which is based on replies to queries filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, says that the state government has grossly failed to comply with national and international standards in ensuring juvenile justice.
Among the most shocking findings was the revelation that girls were being kept at the Children Home for Boys at Chikamaglur. If this was not startling enough, the ACHR found that no inspections had taken place at the same home during 2009-10. Both these were violations of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.
The Centre admitted that the condition of juveniles in conflict with law is “precarious” across the country, but opted to work on the Karnataka scene because the State Human Rights Commission and the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights in the state have been more vigilant than their counterparts elsewhere.
“Karnataka represents one of the best-case scenarios in the country. And if this is the state of affairs here, you can imagine what is happening in the rest of the country,” ACHR director Suhas Chakma told DNA. The ACHR report reads virtually like a catalogue of violations of laws.
Juveniles in conflict with the law are still being detained in police stations and prisons in the state, where they are subject to high risk of abuse from other inmates and further subject to torture and other human rights violations by representatives of the state.
As recently as December 20, 2011, the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) rescued a 16-year-old boy who was being illegally detained at Sampigehalli police station in Bangalore. In January this year, members of the KSCPCR made a surprise visit to the Central Prison at Parappana Agrahara, Bangalore and found that 22 minors had been lodged there for several months.
In November last year, a 14-year-old rescued child labourer who was placed under the care of protection of the state was tortured by the warden of state-run Children’s Home for Boys, Bangalore.
The assault resulted in the victim temporarily losing consciousness in his right hand. He was not provided medical care except being given a painkiller. An inspection of a privately-run home in Dodda Gubbi near Bangalore by a team of various child rights authorities on in January 2012 exposed several violations of the Juvenile Justice Act and atrocities on the inmates including allegations of molestation of the children.
Children, under such circumstances, do anything to escape—including attempting suicide.
On October 14, 2010, Karthik, an inmate of Balamandira in Kolar district committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling in the bathroom. The Balamandira was earlier referred to as Remand Home and Centre for Juvenile Offenders. Although the circumstances leading to the death are unknown, it was stated that there was no facility for educating the children at the Balamandira (the children were sent to a nearby government school). There were also complaints that inmates were forced to work, including cleaning 60 of the overflowing toilets.
On January 31, three juveniles lodged at the Government Remand Home for Boys and Girls at Madiwala attempted suicide inside the Home by consuming pesticide. They were hospitalised.
There have also been many cases of children going missing from juvenile Homes. According to an NGO, Odanadi Seva Samste, as many as 1,089 children below 14 years have gone missing from 34 Balamandiras (Children’s Homes) in Karnataka between February 2005 and February 2011, and four girls committed suicide at Balamandiras in Bangalore during the same period.
If this is not bad enough, the lack of coordination between the Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs), prosecution, police and the department of women and child development of Karnataka has resulted in a backlog of cases. These not only result in denial of justice but also lead to suffering of the juveniles, who are forced to languish in congested Observation Homes where living conditions are miserable.