Delhi Police detained minors, declared them to be adults and kept them in illegal custody
At least 10 minors were arrested by Police in February following rioting in North-East Delhi, were kept in illegal police custody or sent them to jail. Whereabouts of some are still unknown
Three weeks after they were arrested by Delhi Police for their alleged role in rioting, a Delhi court declared two of them as minors on Wednesday, March 18. However, relatives, family members and activists claim at least 10 minor boys were picked up by the police at random and at least one of them was sent to Mandoli jail. In most cases, family members claim they have no idea of the boys’ whereabouts.
The youngest to have been arrested is said to be 13-year-old Jamil Mustafa (name changed to protect privacy) despite the family producing his Aadhaar number and a bank passbook, both of which record his year of birth as 2006. Mustafa’s lawyer also submitted the photo ID card from his school in Chandbagh, where he was studying. But the court did not consider this as sufficient evidence and instead ordered for a bone ossification test to determine his age. He is currently lodged at Mandoli jail with hardened criminals.
“When anyone is arrested, medico-legal certificate is prepared and in this case the Investigating Officer recorded that the 13-year-old was actually 22-year-old. The police stated this age to the doctors to justify their action. The police has no power to arrest a juvenile, so they lied despite his obvious physical appearance of a young teenager. The police can arrest a juvenile only in extreme circumstances. Mustafa had stepped out to purchase groceries in the evening, when the police intercepted and made in an accused in one of rioting cases,” said Abdul Gaffar, the lawyer for the minors.
When anyone who is below the age of 18 is arrested, Police are required to produce them before the Juvenile Justice Board and then forwarded to a Correction Home. If the person arrested is above 18, they are produced before a magistrate who remands the accused to police or judicial custody, explains Tara Narula, a lawyer who is helping with the cases of minors.
In case of Khureji resident Mohammad Hasan (names changed to protect privacy), he has been in custody since February 26. He was detained when he was out delivering bakery products to vendors to help his father who was unwell.
“He is 17-years-old, but the police insisted he was an adult. After he was rounded up, they alleged that Hasan had opened fire. “However, neither did the police conduct the powder test on his fingers to prove that he had fired a gun nor did they produce anyone who was injured in the firing,” informed Gaffar.
After the lawyers produced his school certificate, the magistrate stated that he was a minor and ordered on March 16 that he be shifted to a correction home from the prison. He was finally shifted on Wednesday, March 18. “When Hasan was arrested, the police did not take any details, nor did they ask his age. They simply rounded him up. It was only after we submitted his school certificate that they finally relented,” pointed out Gaffar.
Imran Hussain was arrested on February 28, and his parents heard about his arrest immediately. As soon as they heard they he had been picked up, they contacted Gaffar and gave him the necessary documents. This helped them prove that he was a 14-year-old, so, he was sent directly to the correction home and not to the jail.
The police illegally detained several youngsters on February 24, but they were produced in court only on February 28 and many of them have been implicated in false cases.
“It is becoming a pattern. Minors are being arrested and produced as adults. In case of minors, bail is a matter of right, but that is not even being considered. In many cases, families do not even know about their detention,” says Narula.