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Handcuffing the juveniles in India: Is it legal?

editor - March 31, 2017 - #Juvenilejustuice

This guest post was written by Dr Prejal Shah, PhD in Law, Brunel University. As with all of our guest posts, the views represented are of the author and may not reflect the views of Fair Trials.

On 5th March 2017, the Times of India brought to light the story of a juvenile who wrote his exams handcuffed. The juvenile, a 17 years old allegedly involved in a molestation case, was reportedly kept in handcuffs by the accompanying police constables throughout the exam. Various media sources reported this to be in contradiction with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJA).

Although alleged by various sources, the JJA does not explicitly mention that juveniles suspected of a crime shall not be handcuffed. Human rights organisations and the Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi, have assured that no minor between the age of 16 and 18 shall be handcuffed. It was deemed important to protect such a vulnerable group even if they were suspected of a crime. This recommendation is highly important considering the plethora of police abuse cases. The reputation of the police officers in India is tainted with cases of police torture and brutality. Unfortunately, this does not exclude any juvenile suspects, who need to be protected at all times. This seemed to be the main reason for the recommendation against handcuffing of juveniles in the Juvenile Justice Act Report. Such recommendations have been surfacing since 2011 but have not yet been reflected into the above mentioned act.

Handcuffs01_2003-06-02Opposition to handcuffing juvenile suspects is moreover to be found in landmark cases such as Sunil Batra v The State of New Delhi (1980 AIR 1579). There is, however, no legal provision against handcuffing juveniles. These recommendations do not form a part of the police officers training, who are not expected to follow them. Therefore, the lack of any legal provision makes it difficult to hold the police officer responsible in a case like the present.

The response of the general public on laws aiming at promoting special protections for juveniles remains divided. In the light of the current events such as various rape cases surfacing throughout different states in India, where quite a few times the suspect was a minor, such protections were deemed unfair. Handcuffing is seen by many as an acceptable practice against such suspects, who were perceived to be a threat to society.

Despite the public opinion of suspects being handcuffed, it is suggested that the criminal justice system should aim to balance the due process and crime control methods and aim to provide a suspect with a fair trial. In light of these events, it is most pertinent to discuss the importance of minors being accompanied by a lawyer or guardian, in circumstances such as when the suspected minor is appearing for an exam. Pertinent measures such as minors being accompanied by a lawyer or a custodian at all times, and not just at the trials, need to be enforced by legislation and its implementation needs to be ensured by the judiciary. These safeguards should be seen as basic human rights and need to be reflected in the Constitution of India. In addition, disciplinary action should be taken against police officers violating such legal provisions and depriving juvenile suspects of their basic human rights.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71. For regular updates follow Fair Trials on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of the page. FB iconClick to share this story on Facebook

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If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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