Police helpless, say repeat offenders misuse Juvenile Justice Act

Abhinav Garg & Neeraj Chauhan,TNN | Oct 6, 2013, 11.44 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The latest arson and rioting by juveniles at Sewa Kutir in north Delhi has left the Delhi Police smarting, as its men had little option but to remain mute spectators. More than 200 personnel — Delhi Police, Delhi Armed Police and private security guards — were at Adharshila Observation Home by 2.30am on Sunday but stood at a safe distance watching juveniles burn down the superintendent's office and create mayhem.

When TOI spoke to some of the policemen and guards, they were unanimous in citing the Juvenile Justice Act to argue that cops are not allowed to use force against juveniles, which makes it easy for habitual offenders.

There is palpable anger within the force that notorious juveniles repeatedly escape after burning properties worth several lakhs and make a mockery of law while the police are forced to watch helplessly. "Why can't these juveniles, who escaped, be booked for rioting, attempt to murder and other IPC sections and tried for it before the Juvenile Justice Board? These NGOs and courts treat them with kid gloves but it is us who have to face the brunt of their fury, repeatedly," an ASI said, admitting he found it galling that the police can't control the boys who often taunt them.

The police say juveniles like Raju, Sachin, Vijay and Rahul (names changed), who have escaped thrice from observation homes in the past few months have mastered the art of misusing the JJ Act.

For such homes, where incidents of arson, damage of pubic property and injuring staff and security guards is taking place regularly by violent juveniles, private security guards are not a solution.

A senior police officer, on condition of anonymity, said "Police should be given more freedom in dealing with habitual, violent juveniles. They are a menace. They thrash police officers and when produced in the JJB, they allege that they were beaten up in police custody. Today, police are very cautious while apprehending the juveniles and scared of even touching them in a violent situation."

According to various directions, after apprehending a juvenile, police are supposed to create an impression in the mind of the juvenile that he is not under interrogation as a thief or as a liar but that an effort is being made to find out the truth in order to help him. The police officers are not supposed to lose temper, bully or use force against the juveniles and enquiries have to be conducted in privacy and a comfortable environment.

The police were again at the receiving end on Sunday when juveniles, who failed to escape, told members of NCPCR and DCPCR that they were thrashed by the police.