INDIA: Delhi High Court to frame guidelines to deal with juvenile crime

Summary: Expressing concern over the “startling revelation” that more than 100 juveniles are wrongfully lodged with adult inmates in Tihar Jail, the Delhi High Court has said that it intends to frame guidelines for the police and the magistrates in handling cases that involve minors.

The high court took suo-moto cognisance of the issue after being informed by a team of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) that on a visit to the Tihar Jail complex, it was prime facie found that out of the 278 prisoners it interacted with, more than 100 were juveniles.

“This startling revelation clearly demonstrates that neither proper inquiry is being conducted by the police at the time of arrest nor by the magistrates when such prisoners are produced before them. Once it is found that such prisoners are juveniles, sending them to jail even for a day amounts to denial of their fundamental right and right to liberty,” a bench headed by Acting Chief Justice AK Sikri said.

“We intend to lay down comprehensive guidelines and policy and would like to issue directions to various authorities as to how to deal with such cases,” the bench, also comprising Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, said.

Advocates Anant K Asthana, Rohan J Alva and NGO International Bridges of Justice (India) Trust — intervener in the case — have been asked to work on the matter and submit draft guidelines to be followed while dealing with such cases, the court said.

Issuing directions to various authorities, the court asked the police to find out the age of an accused at the time of arrest.

“Besides, the magistrates should send such accused, who appear to be juveniles, for ossification test to ascertain their age,” the bench added.  The court said it would also ask the Delhi Judicial Academy to conduct special programmes for magistrates on the issue so that the judges will be able to handle the situation properly.

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