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Odisha: RPF personnel violate juvenile justice act
Railway Protection Force's (RPF) Jack-in-Office jab to juvenile justice. Blatant violation of Juvenile Justice Act has taken place in Odisha at the hands of RPF personnel. Minor boys were detained and tortured for eight days, and their photographs have also been flashed in the media.

The case of two minor boys being detained and tortured in the lock up by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) of Cuttack for more than a week and the events that followed has brought to the fore how insensitive the police, administration and the media are to the Juvenile Justice Act 2000.

Railway Protection Force (RPF) of Cuttack had taken two minor boys of 12 and 14 years respectively into custody on the night of December 31. The allegation was that they were committing theft in the railway yard. There was no complaint either verbal or written. And no stolen things were recovered from the boys. But, still the two minors were detained not for one or two days, but for eight long days.

The two victims have told to the electronic media that they were fed only once in a day and were beaten in two sessions every day. When the family members of the boys contacted the RPF, they were informed that the two boys have been arrested for stealing mobile phones. The family members have also complained of misbehavior by the RPF personnel.

The media persons, who had gone to the Railways police station to gather news, were locked in a room and their camera were snatched away. The photo journalists were rescued when the BJP and Congress workers protested there. After the matter was brought in to the notice of District Collector, the district child protection officer Pragati Mohanty rescued the two minors and handed them over to their families.

This reads like the story of the bad cop from any C-grade gangster film. But it is not a film, it is a reality of violation of child rights by the government personnel, who are in charge of enforcing law of the land which also includes the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.

Section 10 of the JJ Act reads -Apprehension of juvenile in conflict with law: As soon as a juvenile in conflict with law is apprehended by the police, he shall be placed under the charge of the special juvenile police unit or the designated police officer, who shall produce the juvenile before the Board without any loss of time but within a period of twenty-four hours of his apprehension excluding the time necessary for the journey, from the place where the juvenile was apprehended, to the Board.

Provided that in no case a juvenile in conflict with law shall be placed in a police lockup or lodged in a jail.

But in the above case first of all the police does not have either an FIR or a verbal complaint to treat these minors as the juveniles in conflict with law in the first place. The IIC of RPF Police Station Ashok Das was audacious enough to tell the media persons that “I can not tell you why these boys are detained.”

The RPF has neither handed over these boys to special juvenile police unit or the Juvenile board. And the boys have not been produced before the Board within 24 hours as per the stipulation of the law.

The detained boys have complained to the media that at a time three policemen were entering into the lock up. Two were holding their legs up after tying them together and the third one was raining lathis on the bottom of their legs.

They were subjected to such brutal torture almost every day. Their parents who had gone there to release them also were threatened with arrest. The parent of these boys elk out a living from daily wage work. These boys do not go to school. Another failure on the part of the administration- it has failed in rehabilitating these children.

Why the two minors were detained in the first place, locked up for such a long time and brutally beaten? One is yet to get a logical answer to it. Defending himself Ashok Kumar Das, IIC of RPF Police Station has explained that these two minors were frequently stealing from the railway area. That is why they were being interrogated on Tuesday (7th Jan). They have not been subjected to any torture. But the marks of beating on the body of these boys tell a different story.

IG, Railway Protection Force (RPF) on 8th Janauary has ordered a high-level probe into the brutalities committed by the RPF personnel on two minor boys. The thee member committee comprising one Assistant Commandant and two Inspectors have already started the probe in Cuttack RPF police station. They have been instructed to submit the report latest by 14th January. IG, RPF has assured that stern action will be taken against the guilty.

It is but for the media and legal aid organizations that these two minors have been rescued and the administration has swung into action. But unwittingly the media also has violated the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act that prohibits publication of name, etc., of juvenile in conflict with law.

Some of the news papers and news portals have not only published the real names of these two minors but their photographs (even without the black strip over their eyes) have been displayed. Section 21 of the JJ Act mandates that no report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or visual media of any inquiry regarding a juvenile in conflict with law or a child in need of care and protection under this Act shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile or child nor shall any picture of any such juvenile or child be published.

Only when the authority holding the inquiry permits allows such disclosure, then only it can be done. But, for this the inquiring authority has to record the reasons in writing. But in this case a proper enquiry is yet to start, leave aside permitting it.

Will the law of Juvenile Justice Act prevail and the children get protection and care that they deserve? Not until different pillars of democracy are not only aware but are sensitive about the provisions of the act.

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