The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has instituted inquiry into death by suicide of a minor boy who was sent to district jail on charges of possession of drugs. The Commission has taken cognisance of a complaint it received that a 15-year-old boy unable to bear the torture of being sent to a jail as an adult on charges of drug possession, committed suicide when released on bail after three months in Etah, Uttar Pradesh on September 21. The father of the boy has reportedly alleged that his son was illegally arrested and tortured to extort money by the police.
The Commission has directed the SSP, Etah to have the allegations inquired by a Senior Rank Police Officer, and submit an action taken report to the Commission, within four weeks.
The NHRC has sought the following information in the report:
1. As per rule 7 of the JJ Act and section 94 (c) of the JJ Act, Date of birth is the primary proof of age; therefore, under what circumstances, the Juvenile was treated as an adult.
2. Non-consideration of the matriculation certificate as proof of the DOB is in violation of judgment in the matter of “Ashwani Kumar Saxena vs. State of MP (2012) 9 SCC 750”; therefore, under what circumstances this was ignored.
3. What protocol is being followed for assessing the age and date of birth of the accused by police?
The Supreme Court in Ashwani Kumar Saxena vs. State of MP (2012) 9 SCC 750 had highlighted the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act which stipulates that an age determination inquiry be carried out under section 7A of the Act. This provision requires the court to obtain the matriculation or equivalent certificates and in absence of that obtain the date of birth certificate from the school first attended. “Once the court, following the above mentioned procedures, passes an order; that order shall be the conclusive proof of the age as regards such child or juvenile in conflict with law. It has been made clear in subsection (5) or Rule 12 that no further inquiry shall be conducted by the court or the Board after examining and obtaining the certificate or any other documentary proof,” the court has said.
The Commission has thus cited this case to understand whether this process was followed by the court that remanded him to custody. Interestingly, the Commission has also sought to know what protocol does the police follow to determine the age of a suspect who claims to be a minor or is visibly a minor.
There are provisions for that as well under section 12 of the Juvenile Justice Act which states that when any person, who is apparently a child and is alleged to have committed a bailable or non-bailable offence, is apprehended or detained by the police such person shall 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.
Alternatively, if such a person is not released on bail due to exceptions, then the officer in charge is required to place such person in an observation home until the person (apparently a child) can be brought before a Juvenile Justice Board. Neither of these procedures seemed to have been followed by the police in this case, despite the boy or his family making claims of his juvenility.
The Commissions has also directed its Investigation Division to conduct an on the spot enquiry, analyze the case and suggest the institutional measures, which could be recommended to the government to ensure that the children are not being treated as adults for prosecution.
The Investigation Division has also been directed to look into the role played by all the concerned stakeholders in this case, including the Judge, before whom the child was produced within 24 hours of the arrest, and the role of the doctor who examined the child. This report is expected in 6 weeks.
The boy was arrested by the police on March 9 and his father stated that he had ventured out to buy pizza and was arrested. The police had said that they found 500g diazepam on him and his father alleges that he was kept in lockup and beaten up by the police for 4 days while the cops demanded Rs. 2 lakh to release him.
He was then produced before the court as an adult and was remanded to custody under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act on March 12. He had to spend 3 months in jail before his parents managed to secure bail for him on July 25 on the grounds that the police had not filed a chargesheet.
After he returned home, his parents said he seemed changed and was not the cheerful teenager he always was. The father has filed a complaint for abetment of suicide against sub-inspectors Mohit Rana and Shiv Kumar, head constable Upendra Kumar and constable Ravish Kumar.