The Quint Impact: DCPCR Pulls Up Tihar on Juveniles in Adult Jails

DCPCR takes cognisance of The Quint’s report on juveniles in adult jails, issues notice to DG (Prisons).

3 min read

The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has taken cognisance of the investigative piece published by The Quint on 15 March highlighting the appalling fact of juveniles getting incarcerated in jails meant for adult prisoners.

Relying upon the story titled “Over 123 Juveniles in Tihar: Why Children End Up in Adult Jails”, the commission has issued a notice to the Director General of Tihar prisons seeking clarification on the matter.

The Commission has directed the prison administration to submit a status report indicating the data from all the prisons on juveniles who end up getting incarcerated in adult jails in a prescribed format. 

Holding Authorities Accountable

The notice issued by the DCPCR indicates the findings of The Quint’s investigative piece, which exposed how despite the clear mandate of law, a total of 123 prisoners in the Tihar prison complex were identified as juveniles.

The report also highlights how most of the jails do not even maintain data on juveniles trapped in the adult criminal justice system, a flagrant violation of the directions laid down by the Delhi High Court in a suo moto matter.

In a reply to an RTI application filed on 8 August 2020 to all the 16 jails of Tihar prison complex, it was revealed that at least 123 prisoners were declared juveniles in 2019-2020. This figure was obtained from just eight jails in Tihar, as the other eight jails did not reply to the RTI query. 

Of the eight jails that replied to the RTI, five mentioned that they do not maintain any data on the identification and declaration of prisoners as juveniles, clearly violating the obligations set by the Delhi High Court.

The lack of maintenance of data along with inadequate replies suggests the actual figure of juveniles at Tihar Jail is much higher than 123. This apprehension is supported by data published by the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA).

Amicus Curiae Takes The Quint's Story to The Delhi High Court

In another development, the amicus curiae in the Delhi High Court’s suo moto matter on children in conflict with the law, Senior Advocate HS Phoolka, submitted the findings of The Quint’s investigative piece before the Delhi High Court.

Citing The Quint’s story in his report, the amicus curiae has brought to the court’s attention the appalling state of the criminal justice system that fails the children who end up landing in adult jails. 

The amicus curiae has tabulated The Quint’s findings in his report to show the court the socio-economic background of the juveniles who get trapped in the adult criminal justice system.

The amicus has quoted the following findings from The Quint’s investigative piece in his report:

  • Majority of the juveniles housed in adult prisons were largely homeless living on roads, etc and with no documentation/family records. Due to their failure to present legitimate age proof at the time of arrest, such as an Aadhar Card or a School Leaving Certificate, the children are being housed in adult prisons
  • Around 85 percent of the prisoners who had approached Legal Aid lawyers claiming juvenility claimed that they were not represented by a lawyer before the Magistrate
  • About 94 percent of the prisoners who had approached legal aid lawyers claiming juvenility stated that the arresting officers did not inform them that they could produce age proof to show juvenility
  • The process of declaring a prisoner as a juvenile is very cumbersome and takes too long, weeks and even months.
“The Quint article reflects a very sorry state of affairs in as much as rights of Children in Conflict with Law are being blatantly violated in failing to keep them in Observation Homes/Special Homes/Place of Safety under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and keeping them along with adults in an adult prison.”
Amicus Curiae report

In light of these findings, the amicus has requested the Delhi High Court to take cognisance of The Quint’s investigative report dated 15 March, and pass necessary directions.

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