Shillong: Supreme Court Judge, Justice Madan B Lokur on Sunday said child rights is a matter of international concern and it is time that the issue needs to be concentrated at the national sphere by breaking 'compartmental-barriers'.
"We now have to concentrate on the national sphere because internationally child rights has been recognized and it is time for all of us to realize that it is a matter of great national importance as well," Justice Lokur said while referring to the recent noble peace prize awards given to Kailash Satyarthi of India and Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan for child rights and education.
According to him, almost 40 per cent of the population of India (about 1.52 billion) consists of children who are below the age of 18 years.
"We are dealing with a very large number of people and we have to realize this when we deal with issues pertaining to child rights. One of the most important thing to remember is that all of us regardless of which discipline we follow or which walk of life we come from, all of us have to work together, converge on this one central issue of protecting and preserving child rights," Justice Lokur said while addressing a two-day workshop on 'sensitization of people on Juvenile Justice System' held here today.
He further stated, "We cannot live in compartments and say if I am a superintendent of home, this is my job, if I am a judge then this is my job, if am a member of the justice and juvenile board this is my job and I will not look after something which is beyond the compartment in which I am located."
"This will not help in the effective implementation of Juvenile Justice Act and this is not how we should look at issues pertaining to child rights and the betterment of children," he said while citing instances where even judges in the courts besides police and social welfare department are completely unaware of child rights.
There are instances where children who are victims of circumstances were made to be as accused, he said adding "One must be aware that there there is a vast difference between victim and an accused."
"The department of social welfare in many parts of the country sometimes takes their own time in realizing funds and there are complaints we've had from three regional conferences, the first was in Guwahati few months ago, then in September in Odisha and last was in Chennai and Tamil Nadu," he said.
"The common refrain everywhere was that sometimes the
bureaucracy is a little lethargic in terms of realizing funds for children, releasing adequate funds also and not looking after the infrastructures, many of the homes are in poor condition and children are not looked after properly, diet is inadequate, there is malnourishment and so on," he stated
On police sensitization, Justice Lokur said, "One of the reasons why I feel that police is very important because in the case of a juvenile offender or a person who believes to be in conflict with law, the first contact is with the police and how the police deal with that child is extremely important."
He said that if the child is dealt with in a very hostile manner, the psychology of the child will get sort of criminalize but if the child is dealt with as who is a victim of circumstances, well the psychology of the child will function.
Stating that a lot depends on how the police actually deal with children, he said we have issues pertaining to trafficking and very large numbers of children are also from this North East region adding if police don't take interest in this issue, their lives will be ruined.
He added, whichever way you look at it whether it is child in conflict with law, victims of circumstances or offence or a child in need of protection in many of instances, the police is the first point of contact and that is why the sensitization of the police is very important.
NGOs, judges in the court, people from different departments, those working in observation homes, all needs to be sensitized, the judge asserted.
Addressing the gathering packed with police officials from different parts of the state, Acting Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court, Justice Uma Nath Singh said this programme of sensitising the police is designed not only to make aware of the provisions of the legal instrument called the JJ Act but also to impress upon them to love other children as you love your own because the kingdom of God belongs to them.
He also spoke in brief on the provisions of the JJ Act which include prohibition of handcuffs against juvenile and police should dress in plain clothes while dealing with such cases besides others.
He also stressed on the need to sensitize the political heads on child rights besides personnel looking after the affairs of the prisons.
Earlier, Meghalaya Director General of Police (DGP) PJP Hanaman in his speech said the state police faced challenges while dealing with juvenile offenders because they are required to accord non criminal status to the offender that is why it is imperative that police are require to be suitably sensitize and equip while dealing with juveniles.