Supreme Court says a child cannot be kept in jail
“Even if bail is not granted, the child cannot be kept in jail or police lockup and has to be kept in an observation home or place of safety”, said the Supreme Court
"Even if bail is not granted, the child cannot be kept in jail or police lockup and has to be kept in an observation home or place of safety", said the Supreme Court, adding that juvenile justice boards are not meant to be "silent spectators."
The apex court emphasized that a juvenile cannot be kept in jail or police lockup.
A bench comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose made this observation after two instances were cited pertaining to certain allegations published in the media in connection with children being purportedly detained and tortured in the police custody in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
"All Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) in the country must follow the letter and spirit of the provisions of the Act. We make it clear that the JJBs are not meant to be silent spectators and pass orders only when a matter comes before them," said the court citing the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, cannot be flouted, least of all by the police.
"The proviso to the section (of the Act) clearly lays down that a child alleged to be in conflict with the law shall not be placed in a police lockup or lodged in a jail. Once a child is produced before a JJB, bail is the rule," the bench said in the February 10 order.
The apex court is conducting a hearing on a matter which has raised the issue of exploitation of children at orphanages. The apex court had passed many directions already emphasizing child care institutions, including orphanages, to ensure their safety and welfare.
The court noted that the JJBs can take note of the factual situation if it comes to their knowledge that a child has been detained in prison or police lockup. The court emphasized that it is the duty of the JJBs to ensure that the child is immediately granted bail or sent to an observation home or a place of safety.
"It is the duty of the JJBs to ensure that the child is immediately granted bail or sent to an observation home or a place of safety," the bench said.
The top court directed its registry to send a copy of this order to all registrar generals of the high courts so that "the order is placed before the Juvenile Justice Committee of each high court which shall in turn ensure that the copy of this order is sent to the JJBs to ensure strict compliance of this order."
The apex court observed the Sub-section (1) of the Act, which makes it clear that a child alleged to be in conflict with law should be released on bail with or without surety or placed under the supervision of a probation officer or under the care of any fit person.
"The only embargo created is that in case the release of the child is likely to bring him into association with known criminals or expose the child to moral, physical or psychological danger or where the release of the child would defeat the ends of justice, then bail can be denied for reasons to be recorded in writing", said the court.
The court issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights and sought their response within three weeks.
The next hearing on the matter is scheduled on March 6. The court has also asked Centre and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to submit a report within three weeks.