Observation homes in India
Observation Homes in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal take care of abandoned minors . Of about 154 Bal Gruh or Remand/Observation Homes, a little more than a half are run by various governments and voluntary agencies run the remaining.
There are separate homes for boys and girls. Of the total inmates in Observation Homes, 15 to 20 per cent are juvenile delinquents and the rest are homeless, destitute, neglected children . Of the total inmates, two-thirds belong upto 14 years of age while the remaining one-third below seven years or between 14 and 18 years. Many of these children are found to be begging or involved in petty crimes.
About 50 per cent inmates are kept here for less than six weeks, 35 per cent between six weeks and six months and 15 per cent for more than six months. Doctors are appointed for health care on both full-time and part-time basis. While the average expenditure per inmate per month in a Remand Home is over Rs.400. Many voluntary organisations support by providing financial assistance.
HISTORY OF CORRECTIONAL HOMES
Children Acts were enacted back in different states for the treatment and protection of young offenders, and for custody, trial and punishment of juvenile delinquents. Madras (present Tamil Nadu) enacted such an act in 1920, Bengal in 1922, and Bombay (Maharashtra) in 1924. In 1986, the Juvenile Justice Act was passed and all the States and Union Territories have adopted the same to provide shelter to the neglected, destitute and socially handicapped and victimised children.
The Children Acts suffered from many deficiencies in the absence of a uniform law for the country as a whole. Some of these deficiencies were: (1) the upper age limit in defining a ‘child’ varied from state to state; (2) all states had not provided for juvenile courts; (3) the institutional facilities were devoid of any well-defined criteria and norms to regulate capacity, staff, programmes, etc.; (4) no minimum standards for basic needs, living conditions, or therapeutic services existed; and (5) in most of the states, neglected children were huddled together with juvenile delinquents.
An important feature of the 1986 Act is that it provides a differential approach in dealing with the ‘neglected juvenile’ as opposed to the ‘delinquent juvenile’. The former category includes juveniles who are abused, exploited and fallen into criminal gangs and need legal support and counselling to free themselves mentally and physically from the clutches of these gangs.
The Act provides the juvenile delinquents under no circumstances are to be lodged in jails with other prisoners. The neglected children will have to be kept in Children’s or Observation Homes. Under the Act, boys up to 16 years of age and girls up to 18 years will be dealt with under the juvenile law in case of commission of crimes by them, as per the order of the court of law.
While neglected juveniles are to be produced before the Juvenile Welfare Board, delinquents are dealt with by the Juvenile Courts.The neglected minor is to be sent to a juvenile home only if his parent or guardian is not traced, or a fit person or an institution is not found feasible. For juvenile delinquents, special homes are required to be set up with facilities for accommodation, education, vocational training, and character building.
The Act requires the state governments to create a fund and to exclusively utilise it for the welfare and rehabilitation of juveniles dealt with under the Act and also to constitute Advisory Boards to advise the authorities concerned on matters relating to establishment and maintenance of homes, and raise funds for the purpose.
Juvenile courts have been established in some states to try and convict specifically juvenile delinquents. The first juvenile court was established in Calcutta in 1922, followed by Bombay in 1927 and by Madras in 1930.Since then, all other . states have also created such courts. The methods used by the juvenile courts are quite different from those used by courts. Generally, the presiding magistrates of these courts are female magistrates.“Police officers in official uniform are not permitted in these courts. In trial also, complete secrecy is maintained. Members of the public are not permitted to be present at the sittings of the juvenile courts, except by special permission of the Court”
Lawyers not permitted to appear and advocateLawyers are not entitled to appear in any case before the juvenile courts. However, if a juvenile court is of the opinion that in the public interest, the appearance of a legal practitioner is necessary, he is authorised to appear in ordinary dress.
The conviction by this court does not affect the trial for another crime in some other court. The main features of the juvenile courts are: informality of procedure, de-emphasis on deterrent or retributive justice, protection and rehabilitation of juveniles, and use of socialised treatment measures.
The juvenile courts are an integral part of the judicial hierarchy, as all appeals from juvenile courts are forwarded to higher adult courts. The methods used for the disposal of cases by the juvenile courts generally are: restoring delinquents to guardians, release after admonition, imposition of fine, and release on probation, commitment to reformatories, schools and portals, and imprisonment if all else fails.
The origin of probation as a legal system authorising the courts to place offenders on probation was made in 1878 when Massachusetts (US) passed a law authorising the appointment of a paid probation officer. By 1917, 21 states in America introduced probation system in their states.
In England, the parliament passed the Probation of First Offenders Act in 1887. It restricted probation to first offenders and did not authorise the appointment of probation officers. This limitation was removed in 1907 while the appointment of probation officers in all courts was permitted in 1925. France enacted a similar law in 1891
In India, the Probation of Offenders Act was enacted in 1958 which was gradually extended to all states except Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Sikkim.
Tripura State enacted its own Act in 1960, Jammu & Kashmir and Karnataka in 1966.These Acts permit release on probation only of juvenile delinquents only for offences with less than seven years imprisonment. There was also a provision (Section 562) in the 1898 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and later on in CrPC 1973 (Section 360) which permitted release of offenders on probation.
But the scope of provision in 1898 CrPC was very limited. It applied only to juvenile delinquents and male (but not female) first offenders. Besides, only first-cla&s magistrates were authorised to release offenders on probation. There was no provision for supervision either. The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 has a wider scope. It permits probational release of all offenders (irrespective of age and sex).
It also permits supervision of probationers by probation officers. Besides, it has authorised all types of magistrates to release offenders on probation.
Release of all except those charged with Capital Punishment :
The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, thus, permits (a) probation to all offenders except those who are liable to be given capital punishment for murder, treason, etc. and to dacoits and professionals; (b) release on probation for a maximum period of three years; (c) social investigation by a probation officer; and (d) revocation or premature termination of probation.
The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 makes the release of all juvenile delinquents below 16 years (18 years for girls) on probation obligatory. If a certain juvenile is not given this benefit, reasons are to be specified for it. Release on probation is based on four factors: (i) circumstances of the case, (ii) nature of crime, (iii) age of the accused person, and (iv) character of the accused person.