New guidelines on treatment of juvenile convicts
The government has come up with a handbook detailing ways to deal with children in conflict with the law, emphasising on launching a database and a tracking system for their effective rehabilitation post incarceration, after procedural flaws were exposed in the aftermath of the 'Nirbhaya' case.
The standard operating procedure (SOP), prepared by the women and child development (WCD) ministry based on the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015, aims at eliminating maltreatment of such children while protecting them from violence, abuse and exploitation.
The objective of all the stakeholders should be to rehabilitate and reintegrate children in conflict with the law into the mainstream, the SOP states.
The ministry has recommended a slew of activities as part of the rehabilitation process which include yoga, physical training, meditation, skill training, computer education, art and craft therapy, training in spoken English, dance and drama and sports.
It also enumerates individual care plans to be drafted for each child which is mandated in by the JJ Act.
The SOP has laid down a provision for professional course for a child in order to make him/her financially independent and recommended that child care institutions tie up with universities for such courses.
It has also advised that there should be a follow-up plan in place for all children in conflict with the law who are in institutional care.
"Institutions should conduct regular follow-up programmes for all released children to ensure the child does not get back to a difficult situation. Institution should maintain regular contact with the children and their families.
"Regular follow-up activities help to reduce the rate of recidivism. Institutions should conduct half yearly meets to get a feedback from the juveniles about their current situation and to ascertain the further interventions required for their successful rehabilitation," the SOP said.
Flaws were exposed in the procedural aspects of the JJ Act in the aftermath of the release of the juvenile convict in the 'Nirbhaya' gangrape case, prompting the government to work on a comprehensive plan for such children so that they do not become repeat offenders.
The juvenile convict in the gangrape and murder of a 23- year-old physiotherapy intern in Delhi in December 2012 was released in December 2015 and is believed to be working at a roadside eatery in South India.
Ministry officials say that there was no follow-up plan devised for his release.
The officials also say that while he was taught how to stitch and cook, it was a south India-based non-for-profit organisation which later trained him and presently monitoring him.
The ministry's SOP also has a provision for after-care whereby a tracking system is to be created by state governments through which children, once they leave child care institutions, will be tracked for minimum three years to analyse the transition.
The government may also set up a database of children leaving child care homes upon turning 18 every year and also create helpline numbers for those who are out of institutional care, where they can contact to seek guidance or counselling, whenever required, and can find solutions for their concerns.