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Monday 28th of September 2020

Press Room

IJJO Interviews- Kuldeep Singh – Consultant for the Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Member of the Permanent Lok Adalat

Wednesday 22nd of August 2018 | Asia, India

Kuldeep Singh worked as a member of the Juvenile Justice Board with the Government of Haryana (India) from June 2011 to December 2016. He worked efficiently to ensure the rehabilitation, speedy trials and legal rights of juveniles in conflict with the law, and to implement the Juvenile Justice Act at judiciary and police levels in his district and across the state.

He has organised workshops and delivered lectures for stakeholders such as Special Juvenile Police Units, Child Protection Units, Child Welfare Committees and Juvenile Justice Boards in the state. In addition, he has attended many regional and national seminars and expert meetings related to the Juvenile Justice System in India.

He has further specialised in assessing the cognizance of the juveniles staying in observation/special homes due to non-decided cases within a time-bound period, and also that of foreign national juveniles. Mr. Singh is a practising counselling psychologist for the rehabilitation of juveniles who come into conflict with the law.

In January 2018 Mr. Signh was appointed as Consultant for the Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights (Union Territory Administration).

Recently, the State Legal Services Authority at the Department of Administration of Justice (State Government) appointed Mr. Singh member of the Permanent Lok Adalat (Permanent Public Court).

Mr. Singh also has experience as the Vice President of the NGO Zila Yuva Vikas Sangathan (ZYVS), which runs CHILDLINE, a 24 hour Child Helpline for children in need of care and protection, i.e. missing children, abandoned children, runaway children and victims of child labour.

This NGO also works on projects for children’s education, financially supporting BPL (below poverty line) children in their education, and on opening shelter homes for children and special needs children. In addition, the NGO runs over 150 training centres, and is now embarking on international collaborations for children’s schooling projects.

How has your background in psychology influenced your outlook on juvenile justice?

Juveniles/children (especially those in conflict with the law) should be treated differently from adults, because biologically, psychologically and emotionally they are not mature like adults.  Since juveniles are different from adults, juveniles who commit criminal acts should be treated differently from adults. There should be separate courts/boards, detention facilities, rules, and procedures, and laws should be made and implemented for juveniles, with the intent to protect their welfare and rehabilitate them, while protecting public safety.

In most cases, the child’s first contact with the justice system will be through a member of the police force. In your view, what are the main ways in which a negative experience with law enforcement can impact a child? How do you think the police should adapt their behaviour when dealing with children?

In the Indian Juvenile Justice System there are separate Juvenile Police Units in each and every district to deal with juveniles in conflict with the law.  If the police attend to the apprehended juvenile in police uniform, interrogate them like adults, put them in lock-ups, force them to confess and behave with juveniles like they usually do with criminals, this experience may have a negative impact. The child/juvenile may think that he is a criminal and it also may leave a traumatic experience on them, adding social stigma.

As per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 and the Juvenile Justice Model Rules, there are provisions to deal with such juveniles, such as:

- As soon as a child alleged to be in conflict with the law is apprehended by the police, her or she shall be placed under the charge of the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the designated Child Welfare Police Officer. {Section 10}

- The juvenile can neither be kept in jail nor in a police lock-up. [Rule 8 (3) (i)]

- The police officer may not hand-cuff, chain or otherwise fetter a child and shall not use any coercion or force on the child. [Rule 8 (3) (ii)]

- The apprehended child shall be produced before the Juvenile Justice Board within 24 hours of being apprehended, along with a report explaining the reasons for their apprehension. [Rule 9 (1)]

- The police officials shall produce the juvenile before the Board or attend the board proceedings in plain clothes and not in uniform, and female police personnel shall be engaged for dealing with female children. [Rule 86 (5)]

- No First Information Report shall be registered except where a heinous offence is alleged, or when such offence is alleged to have been committed jointly with adults. If the sentence of the offence is a 7 year imprisonment or less than this, as per the Indian Penal Code or Criminal Procedure Code, this is seen as a petty offence and will be recorded in the general daily diary. [Rule 8 (1)]

- Sittings of the Board should be in child-friendly premises. {Section 14 (5) (b)} [Rule 6 (4)]

- There shall be no joint proceedings of a child alleged to be in conflict with the law with a person who is not a child. {Section 23}

- No child in conflict with the law shall be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. {Section 21}

In your opinion, how effective is this legislation in protecting children’s rights, and in which ways do you think it could be improved?

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 legislation protects Child Rights in different modes like: during police, judiciary, and legal procedures, politically and socially. It could be improved to sensitise the stakeholders (police, judiciary, lawyers, child rights activists/organisations, school teachers/staff, parents, children and the general public).

You served as a member of the Juvenile Justice Board with the government of Haryana over a period of five years. What were the biggest challenges you faced in ensuring that juveniles received sentences that encouraged rehabilitation rather than punishment?

Lack of awareness regarding the Juvenile Justice Act and its spirit, especially rehabilitation psychology, and specifically Section 18 of the Juvenile Justice Act, which stresses sending juveniles to community service programmes instead of sending them to correction homes/observation homes/special homes.

Usually many Principal Magistrates (not all) of the Juvenile Justice Boards do not consider the juveniles as innocent children and do not treat them as children, so there is less chance of sending them to community service programmes. Principal Magistrates should be sensitised and trained in the Juvenile Justice Act, and in particular its spirit.

I have personally observed that if we send the juveniles to community service programmes, rather than sending them to correction homes, there are strong chances of their rehabilitation and reformation. They will not feel socially stigmatised, will remain in contact with their family, and in counselling they will realise that the authorities have sent them to community service programmes and not to jail. The juveniles will realise their mistakes.

I personally know some juveniles who were apprehended by the police in serious offences/petty offences, and by sending them to community service programmes they became aware of their mistakes, rehabilitated successfully and were never in conflict with the law again. Now they are respected citizens and good human beings.

As Vice President of Zila Yuva Vikas Sanghthan (ZYVS), you have clearly put a lot of thought into your outreach strategies (for example, by setting up a free telephone line that reaches 70% to 80% of villages in the district, and organising events in the evening so that working children will also have the chance to meet your organisation). What are the main challenges you face when trying to reach children?

Our NGO Zila Yuva Vikas Sangathan has run a 24-hour Child Helpline under the name “Childline Ambala” since February 2011. Childline works in almost every district in India, under the guidelines of “Childline India Foundation”, a project of the Women and Child Development Ministry of the Government of India. Childline has a toll free number across the nation, which is 1098. We are working within our jurisdiction (Ambala district). As Ambala is a railway junction, we mostly find children there, such as abandoned children, missing children and runaway children, sometimes child trafficking cases.

We organise awareness programmes from time to time, especially with railway police, asking them to call 1098 or our direct number so than our team can go to the location and rescue the child/children. We work with other stakeholders, such as the District Child Protection Unit and the Child Welfare Committee, to restore and rehabilitate the child/children.

Sometimes people avoid reporting cases, especially cases involving child labour or child marriage cases, so that their names will not be disclosed. We now assure them that they will remain anonymous if they report such cases to Childline or the Child Protection Unit.

The Childline team organises awareness programmes in slum areas, villages, railways and bus stations to make the children and public aware regarding the 24-hour Child Helpline 1098.

The main challenge is that the general public does not take the initiative to report child abuse, which may be due to the lack of awareness or to having to disclose their names.

Recently our NGO, which runs Childline, celebrated “Friendship Week” (Friendship with Childline), which lasted from 14th November to 21st November. In this initiative we covered railway stations, bus stations, women’s police stations, railway police, schools, slum areas and observation homes where children in conflict with the law are living.

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