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Mumbai: Juvenile delinquents, trying to re-enter society, face a life of rejection

Updated on: 18 February,2024 04:20 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Faisal Tandel , Diwakar Sharma |

Juvenile delinquents who try to re-enter society after serving sentences or being cleared of charges find their path riddled with rejection and challenges

Mumbai: Juvenile delinquents, trying to re-enter society, face a life of rejection

The remand home in Dongri is flooded requests from juveniles unable to get admission to schools or get their passports approved. File pic

When a 17-year-old boy from south Mumbai finished his sentence after being booked in a sexual assault case, he resolved to put his life back together and become a responsible citizen. However, the teenager, who served close to three months at the juvenile remand home in Dongri, was in for a rude shock. 

“We went through hell when he was booked and were worried about his future. But when we reached out to his school following his release, the management was hesitant to re-admit him. We had approached this same school for a bonafide certificate when he was booked, so they were fully aware of his situation all throughout,” the boy’s mother told mid-day.

Savita Randhe
Savita Randhe

She added that she finally had to approach a magistrate court and the court not only ensured the re-admission but also arranged for a Non Government Organisation to help with his fees. Scores of youngsters who find themselves on the wrong side of the law have been facing similar problems when it comes to their education, despite this being in clear violation of their rights under the Right To Education (RTE) policy. Juveniles in conflict with the law, even if convicted, have legal rights to pursue their studies, but the unwillingness on part of schools leads to a systemic rejection that makes matters worse for them.

“In many cases, we have noticed that juveniles commit offences because of the circumstances; but it must not be misconstrued that their Right to Education (RTE) is forfeited. Every child can avail RTE, as it is their fundamental right guaranteed in the Constitution of India. If a juvenile delinquent is supported well, he or she can become a top-notch citizen, provided they is surrounded by a good atmosphere to focus on study,” Principal Magistrate, Juvenile Justice Board Yashashree Marulkar told mid-day.

In the last one year, Marulkar told mid-day, nearly 30 juveniles were denied admission in schools. “I had to intervene to sort out this chaos. In every order issued in a Juvenile Justice Act case, it is clearly written that the child should get admission in the school or the school may have to face consequences, yet the school management denied admissions to 30 juveniles in the last one year. Further, 50 juveniles also face problems in verification for their passports, despite the fact that every order, be it bail, conviction or acquittal, clearly states that the record of the juvenile should be destroyed, which the police don’t follow,” she said.

Yashashree Marulkar
Yashashree Marulkar

A Mumbai resident, now 27 years old and working in a private firm abroad recalled how, at 16, he was booked in a theft case. “It was a mistake and the magistrate, too, let me off with a warning, but when I got an opportunity to go abroad for work, my passport application got rejected due to my past record. I made countless trips to police stations but their entire attitude towards anyone with a record is unsavoury. I had to approach the Dongri remand home, and the authorities there helped me out,” he said.

Advocate Savita Randhe, a member of the Juvenile Justice Board, Mumbai said that instead of admitting juveniles, schools try to convince the parents to opt for private exams. “In many cases, we also contacted the education inspector of the municipal corporation who too intervened to get the child admitted,” she added. Police officials said that even if the identity of juveniles in conflict with the law is not revealed, it doesn’t take long for it to leak.

“It always becomes the talk of the town when someone from your area is booked. Word spreads and soon, everyone knows about it. Further, the parents have to approach the schools for a bonafide certificate, which, too, results in word getting out. Hence, when the teenager comes back, his locality and his school both look at him differently. The school management feels that the parents of other students would be uncomfortable, leading to the hesitation in re-admitting them,” a senior police officer said. A principal of a school in eastern Mumbai admitted that this was an issue. 

“Many schools are not aware of the JJ Act. Everyone in every school needs to know the Act and the RTE policy, which could go a long way in ensuring that juveniles get equal rights once they have served their sentence or been cleared of the charges against them. The perception against them needs to change and this can only happen if they are sitting on the same bench as other pupils in the schools,” he said. 

Rupali Patil, Magistrate, Children Observation HomeRupali Patil, Magistrate, Children Observation Home

Susieben Shah, chairperson of the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said that the strictest action would be taken against any school found to be denying the right to education to any juvenile in conflict with the law. 

Meanwhile, Rupali Patil, Magistrate, Children Observation Home noted, "After the COVID pandemic many students have dropped out. I noticed many kids studying in 8 and 9th standards are unable to read. In such cases, they should at least clear grade 10 and know how to read at least. Some students get entangled due to the wrong circumstances and are not criminals. Everyone should get one chance to study and brighten their future."

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