By Ningombam Bupenda Meitei
The article is divided into the following sub-topics;
- Introduction: Why do I write it?
- What are the questions – ethical, students’ future and legal?
- a) Ethical question
- b) Question on students’ future
- c) Question on legality
- Manipur Government’s use of water cannon against school students was illegal. Why?
- a) Supreme Court judgment on Ramlila Maidan incident case
- b) Arguments for (3) using 3(a)
- Manipur Government’s police arrest of school students go against Juvenile Justice Act 2015. Why?
- a) Draft Rules of Juvenile Justice Act 2015
- b) Juvenile Justice Act 2015
- c) Arguments for 4 by using 4(a) and 4(b)
- Are children being used by adults? If so, then what can the state do?
- a) Section 83 of Juvenile Justice Act 2015
- b) Is prosecution not using Section 83 of the Act a sign of non-involvement of adults in using children?
- Conclusion: the future of Manipur lies in the state of being of the present school students of Manipur.
(1) Introduction: Why do I write it?
What have the school students done that they had to face forceful water from police’s water cannon to disperse them? What have the school students done that they had to face the violent action of Manipur Police in a full day light? What have the school students done that they had to be treated so inhumanely by none other than the Home Minister of Manipur under whose headship the police department functions? What have the school students done that for whose protection and defence, neither the Chief Minister nor the Leader of the Opposition comes out publicly to safeguard the school students – who indeed are the future of Manipur and human civilization? What have the school students done that they found neither the lawyers nor Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights coming out to question the brutality and humiliation against the school students by the state forces which run under the Home Minister?
Imphal Times, in its news – “ILPS protest once again in frying pan” dated 29th May, 2016, reports about water cannon being used by Manipur Police against the school students who were protesting for their demand to release the two students who were arrested in connection with ILP protest.
I write this piece of mine not to justify any sort of violence or intent to inflict violence being used in any movement or protest, but I write here, as a former school teacher who taught physics and mathematics in Dehradun’s reputed school, precisely to bring out genuine questions – pertaining to legality and ethics; and future of Manipur’s school students.
I do admit that the photos, some of which were published and shared by Imphal Times, being carried out on social media on the use of water cannon against the school students have deeply pained my heart and discomfortingly captured my mind that I am left with no words to express the gravity of such intolerable anguish.
(2) What are the questions – ethical, students’ future and legal?
The question is not whether the school students ought to have been confined only to their classrooms or at home with their books; or whether to question what makes the school students so motivated when the university and college students hardly come out to participate in a movement which is heavily inspired by the presence of school students; or whether the school students themselves do not know that they are being merely used for an end whose result is remotely controllable by elements except students. But, the fundamental question is – what rights does the Home Minister have to allow the use of water cannon against the school students and the arrest of the two school students by Manipur Police and, what powers does the Education Minister not have to protect and safeguard the school students from the police’s water cannon and its arrest? Under which rule/order of Government of Manipur or article of the Constitution of India, has the state of Manipur justified the use of water cannon against the school students and the police arrest, not even detention, of the school students?
If both the Home Minister and the Education Minister cannot protect the school students not only from water cannon but also from the police arrest, as the school students are to be treated as juveniles and not as adults, then the Chief Minister must intervene in order to safeguard the school students. If the Chief Minister is not either implicitly or explicitly initiating any move to give protection and ensure safeguard of the school students, then the Leader of the Opposition and other opposition political parties’ leaders are not at all expected to remain mute and maintain a stoic silence towards the ongoing brutality and public humiliation of the school students, not privately but openly on the streets of the capital of the state. If the Opposition political parties also prefer to be quiet, then at the least the learned lawyers of Manipur or those lawyers, who are outside Manipur, from Manipur are presumed to have been deeply touched by the manner in which the law has been misused in the state, and therefore, the lawyers’ inaction, if there is no proactive initiative from the legal fraternity, would be understood as an act of deliberately not upholding and fighting for the genuine rights of school students who are also juveniles. The silence of both the political and the legal worlds on the assault, use of water cannon by the police and the police arrest of the school students brings up the ethical values of the service rendered to mankind, and particularly for the school students and children.
b) Question on students’ future
The question is also not about silence but what happens after the arrest of two school students is to be looked into with caution. Arresting school students, the number of arrested school students may be two or more, is not only arresting them by the police, but such action in society has a deep potential to influence and stigmatise the minds of the young school going students, and that stigmatisation could have an adversarial impact in the upbringing of not only those directly affected students but also those who, though are not directly affected by the police arrest, are indirectly and remotely disturbed by the arrest of their fellow friends – who may not even study together with those arrested school students in a school. Any sort of dehumanising act to destroy the dignity of a school student or belittle the blossoming moral upright character of a student by any form of element, whether state actors or non-state actors, would not only tantamount to the destruction of an intellectual, social, psychological and overall human development of that student but also could, undoubtedly, lead to the degradation of society, at large, and that degrading society would certainly be not a healthy sign of a progressive human civilization. Manipur of 21st century cannot afford to be engulfed in a confusion of degrading human society.
c) Question on legality
The question of legality – whether the use of water cannon by Manipur Police or any state actor to control the school students and the arrest of the two school students by the police is legal or not – is to be decided as per the rule of law. According to Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 which comes into force from 15th January, 2016, the provisions of the Act must be adhered to while dealing with the school students – the juveniles who are involved in connection with ILPS demand in Manipur – and if an adherence to the Act is already taken into account and which must be the case also as the arrest of the two school students took place in May, 2016, which is very much after the Act comes into force, then there exists a legally valid argument to question the legality of the use of water cannon by Manipur Police and police arrest of the two school students. The question is – “Is the police arrest of school students and action of water cannon against school students illegal?” My legal argument, here, is in the affirmative, meaning that both the police arrest of school students and police action of using water cannon on school students are not only illegal but also go against the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
(3) Manipur Government’s use of water cannon against school students was illegal. Why?
a) Supreme Court judgment on Ramlila Maidan incident case
In the Hon’ble Supreme Court judgment of Suo Motu Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 122 Of 2011 – In Re: Ramlila Maidan Incident Dt.4/5.06.2011 V. Home Secretary, Union Of India & Ors, the Court has upheld the right to peaceful protest as a constitutional right. The Court observes: “Freedom of speech, right to assemble and demonstrate by holding dharnas and peaceful agitation are the basic features of a democratic system. The people of a democratic country like ours have a right to raise their voice against the decisions and actions of the Government or even to express their resentment over the actions of the government on any subject of social or national importance. The Government has to respect, and in fact, encourage exercise of such rights. It is the abundant duty of the State to aid the exercise of right to freedom of speech as understood in its comprehensive sense and not to throttle or frustrate exercise of such rights by exercising its executive or legislative powers and passing orders or taking action in that direction in the name of reasonable restrictions.” It was also written in an article – ‘Can The State Restrict A Citizen’s Right To Protest?’ – by Arun Jaitley, who today is Union Finance Minister of India, in Outlook India, dated 28th February, 2012.
b) Arguments for (3) using 3(a)
The argument is, according to the judgment of the Court, it observes that “it is the abundant duty of the State not to throttle or frustrate exercise of such rights by exercising its executive or legislative powers and passing orders or taking action in that direction in the name of reasonable restrictions.” But, what the State Government of Manipur, through its Home Department, has done is precisely to act in a direction using the shield of reasonable restrictions to throttle and frustrate the exercise of the rights of the people who were exercising freedom of speech, right to assemble and demonstrate by holding dharnas – which indeed are the basic features of a democratic system. The Court has not even restricted such rights to “citizens” of the country but has expanded it to “people” of this democratic country. In the case of Manipur, the school students, who are juveniles, are also citizens of the country and therefore, they have every right to exercise all the rights of any citizen of India, as enshrined in the Constitution of India. The Court, in its judgment, also observes that “the Government has to respect, and in fact, encourage exercise of such rights. It is the abundant duty of the State to aid the exercise of right to freedom of speech as understood in its comprehensive sense.” Has the Government of Manipur – by using police’s water cannon and police arrest of the two school students, who were also exercising their rights as citizens of this country – shown any form of respect or encouragement to the exercise of such rights of the school students? Has the Government of Manipur taken into account the meanings and boundary of the word “comprehensive sense” in identifying the issues, which according to the Government of Manipur could be an issue of law and order only, so that instead of having a dissected and myopic view of the issue the Government of Manipur could very well honour the intent of “comprehensive sense” being mentioned in the Apex Court judgment? If the abundant duty of the State of Manipur is to aid the powers of the state police to aid in curbing the exercise of right to freedom of speech so that the control and stability of law and order in Manipur is to be given utmost primacy, then that very act of the State Government of Manipur goes against the judgment of the Court and also shows that the Government of Manipur is still yet to fully understand and implement the “comprehensive sense” mentioned in the judgment. Then, there is a question – “Why do school students come out to protest?” The reply to this is also given in the Court judgment. The school students, who are not only juveniles and citizens but also are the people of this democratic country, according to the judgment, have “a right to raise their voice… to express their resentment over the actions of the government on any subject of social or national importance.” The argument is – “Was the resentment nationally important?” The reply to this argument is: even if the resentment expressed by the school students is not of national importance, the resentment is deeply imbedded with social importance. The argument to posit that their resentment is nationally important could also be established as they – the school students – are worried about the future of their own home state Manipur, and if the future of Manipur, which is very much a part of India, is in a potentially worrying situation, as it could be according to them, then the future of India, which comprises Manipur too, is also not impossible to be considered as free from any future worry and tension, and therefore, the national importance of their resentment is also difficult to be ruled out because the future of India also lies in the future of Manipur. Even if the “national importance” fails to impress the argument, there is “social importance” as the judgment observes “social or national importance” and not “social and national importance”, therefore by using the operational part of “or”, there is an option to choose either “social importance” or “national importance”. Had there been “and” instead of “or”, the argument could have been different, but since there is “or” the function of “or” allows the argument of “social importance” to bring forth to justify the resentment of the school students. It would be extremely complex to reject the “social importance” in this case. The other question is – “Why are the school students, instead of studying books and learning in their classrooms, participating in dharnas?” The reply to this is also found in the judgment as it says that holding dharnas is one of the basic features of a democratic system. Nowhere in a democracy there is a legally approved and constitutionally accepted statement stating that school students are debarred from holding or participating in dharnas. Has the Parliament enacted Code of Conduct for the school students with regard to dharnas and peaceful demonstrations? Not yet, so far. The question to be raised against the State of Manipur is – “Where is the criminality committed by the school students in holding dharnas in a democratic system of India’s Manipur?” From these aforementioned arguments, the act of Manipur Government, through its police action of using water cannon and the police arrest of two school students, amounts to the dishonour and rejection of the Apex Court judgment, and therefore, both the police action and arrest shall be declared as illegal because the State of Manipur has miserably failed to uphold the judgment, passed on 23rd February, 2012 by the Supreme Court, even in 2016.
(4) Manipur Government’s police arrest of school students go against Juvenile Justice Act 2015. Why?
a) Draft Rules of Juvenile Justice Act 2015
In the Draft Rules of Juvenile Justice Act 2015 released by Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, as reported in a news report of Hindustan Times – No FIRs against juveniles for petty offences, say new rules – dated 26th May, 2016, it mentions that “No longer can police register an FIR against underage offenders accused of minor offences. But they can do so if the crime attracts imprisonment of more than seven years, or is committed jointly with adults. Barring crimes for which an FIR can be registered, all other cases will be handled by the special juvenile police unit or the child welfare police officer who will record the offence in the general diary. The juvenile offenders will not be put in a lock-up or jail with adults. They will get medical and legal aid while guardians have to be informed promptly after a child is detained or arrested. If the child is hungry at the time of arrest and says so, he or she must be provided food without delay. For heinous crimes such as rape and murder committed by a suspect of more than 16 years of age, the child welfare police officer will have to produce statements of witnesses and investigation reports within a month.” The Draft Rules, as reported in India Today – Juvenile Justice Act comes into force tomorrow: Here are the draft rules – dated 26th May, 2016, also mentions: “The JJB or Juvenile Justice Committee will determine the age of the child within 30 days from date of submission of application. Wherever medical opinion is required, same will be sought from a duly constituted medical board for which all government hospitals will constitute medical boards on permanent basis. Where medical boards give a range of age, the age of the child on lower side will be considered in order to give benefit to the child. No child between 16 and 18 years of age in conflict with law will be handcuffed or sent to jail or lock-up. Every state government is required to set up at least one ‘place of safety’ for the rehabilitation of such children.”
b) Juvenile Justice Act 2015
In Chapter 1(2) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, No. 2 of 2016, definition of terms used are explicitly stated to avoid any other interpretation of the definitions, and some of its definitions which are used in this argument are: (9) “best interest of child” means the basis for any decision taken regarding the child, to ensure fulfilment of his basic rights and needs, identity, social well-being and physical, emotional and intellectual development; (12) “child” means a person who has not completed eighteen years of age; (13) “child in conflict with law” means a child who is alleged or found to have committed an offence and who has not completed eighteen years of age on the date of commission of such offence; (15) “child friendly” means any behaviour, conduct, practice, process, attitude, environment or treatment that is humane, considerate and in the best interest of the child; (17) “Child Welfare Officer” means an officer attached to a Children’s Home, for carrying out the directions given by the Committee or, as the case may be, the Board with such responsibility as may be prescribed; (18) “Child Welfare Police Officer” means an officer designated as such under sub-section (1) of section 107; (26) “District Child Protection Unit” means a Child Protection Unit for a District, established by the State Government under section 106, which is the focal point to ensure the implementation of this Act and other child protection measures in the district; (33) “heinous offences” includes the offences for which the minimum punishment under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force is imprisonment for seven years or more; (35) “juvenile” means a child below the age of eighteen years; (45) “petty offences” includes the offences for which the maximum punishment under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force is imprisonment up to three years; (46) “place of safety” means any place or institution, not being a police lockup or jail, established separately or attached to an observation home or a special home, as the case may be, the person in-charge of which is willing to receive and take care of the children alleged or found to be in conflict with law, by an order of the Board or the Children’s Court, both during inquiry and ongoing rehabilitation after having been found guilty for a period and purpose as specified in the order; (54) “serious offences” includes the offences for which the punishment under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force, is imprisonment between three to seven years; (55) “special juvenile police unit” means a unit of the police force of a district or city or, as the case may be, any other police unit like railway police, dealing with children and designated as such for handling children under section 107; and (61) all words and expressions used but not defined in this Act and defined in other Acts shall have the meanings respectively assigned to them in those Acts.
According to 3 of Chapter II (General Principles of Care and Protection of Children) of the Act, the Central Government, the State Governments, the Board, and other agencies, as the case may be, while implementing the provisions of this Act shall be guided by the following fundamental principles, namely:–– (i) Principle of presumption of innocence: Any child shall be presumed to be an innocent of any mala fide or criminal intent up to the age of eighteen years; (ii) Principle of dignity and worth: All human beings shall be treated with equal dignity and rights; (iii) Principle of participation: Every child shall have a right to be heard and to participate in all processes and decisions affecting his interest and the child’s views shall be taken into consideration with due regard to the age and maturity of the child; (iv) Principle of best interest: All decisions regarding the child shall be based on the primary consideration that they are in the best interest of the child and to help the child to develop full potential; (vi) Principle of safety: All measures shall be taken to ensure that the child is safe and is not subjected to any harm, abuse or maltreatment while in contact with the care and protection system, and thereafter; (viii) Principle of non-stigmatising semantics: Adversarial or accusatory words are not to be used in the processes pertaining to a child; (xi) Principle of right to privacy and confidentiality: Every child shall have a right to protection of his privacy and confidentiality, by all means and throughout the judicial process; (xii) Principle of institutionalisation as a measure of last resort: A child shall be placed in institutional care as a step of last resort after making a reasonable inquiry; (xiv) Principle of fresh start: All past records of any child under the Juvenile Justice system should be erased except in special circumstances; (xv) Principle of diversion: Measures for dealing with children in conflict with law without resorting to judicial proceedings shall be promoted unless it is in the best interest of the child or the society as a whole.
In 9(1) of the Act, it states, “when a Magistrate, not empowered to exercise the powers of the Board under this Act is of the opinion that the person alleged to have committed the offence and brought before him is a child, he shall, without any delay, record such opinion and forward the child immediately along with the record of such proceedings to the Board having jurisdiction.” The board, here, means “Juvenile Justice Board”. In 9(3), it states, “If the court finds that a person has committed an offence and was a child on the date of commission of such offence, it shall forward the child to the Board for passing appropriate orders and the sentence, if any, passed by the court shall be deemed to have no effect.” In 10(1) of the Act, it states, “As soon as a child alleged to be in conflict with law is apprehended by the police, such child shall be placed under the charge of the special juvenile police unit or the designated child welfare police officer, who shall produce the child before the Board without any loss of time but within a period of twenty-four hours of apprehending the child excluding the time necessary for the journey, from the place where such child was apprehended: Provided that in no case, a child alleged to be in conflict with law shall be placed in a police lockup or lodged in a jail.”
According to 12 of the Act, it also states the following with regard to bail to a person who is apparently a child alleged to be in conflict with law:
“12 (1). When any person, who is apparently a child and is alleged to have committed a bailable or non-bailable offence, is apprehended or detained by the police or appears or brought before a Board, such person shall, notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or in any other law for the time being in force, be released on bail with or without surety or placed under the supervision of a probation officer or under the care of any fit person: Provided that such person shall not be so released if there appears reasonable grounds for believing that the release is likely to bring that person into association with any known criminal or expose the said person to moral, physical or psychological danger or the person’s release would defeat the ends of justice, and the Board shall record the reasons for denying the bail and circumstances that led to such a decision.
12 (2). When such person having been apprehended is not released on bail under subsection (1) by the officer-in-charge of the police station, such officer shall cause the person to be kept only in an observation home in such manner as may be prescribed until the person can be brought before a Board.
12 (3). When such person is not released on bail under sub-section (1) by the Board, it shall make an order sending him to an observation home or a place of safety, as the case may be, for such period during the pendency of the inquiry regarding the person, as may be specified in the order.
12 (4). When a child in conflict with law is unable to fulfil the conditions of bail order within seven days of the bail order, such child shall be produced before the Board for modification of the conditions of bail.”
According to 74 of the Act, it states the following with regard to prohibition on disclosure of identity of children:
“74 (1). No report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or audio-visual media or other forms of communication regarding any inquiry or investigation or judicial procedure, shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particular, which may lead to the identification of a child in conflict with law or a child in need of care and protection or a child victim or witness of a crime, involved in such matter, under any other law for the time being in force, nor shall the picture of any such child be published: Provided that for reasons to be recorded in writing, the Board or Committee, as the case may be, holding the inquiry may permit such disclosure, if in its opinion such disclosure is in the best interest of the child.
74 (2). The Police shall not disclose any record of the child for the purpose of character certificate or otherwise in cases where the case has been closed or disposed of.
74 (3). Any person contravening the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or both.”
According to 86 of the Act, it states the following with regard to classification of offences and designated court:
“ 86 (1). Where an offence under this Act is punishable with imprisonment for a term more than seven years, then, such offence shall be cognizable, non-bailable and triable by a Children’s Court.
86 (2). Where an offence under this Act is punishable with imprisonment for a term of three years and above, but not more than seven years, then, such offence shall be cognizable, non-bailable and triable by a Magistrate of First Class.
86 (3). Where an offence, under this Act, is punishable with imprisonment for less than three years or with fine only, then, such offence shall be non-cognizable, bailable and triable by any Magistrate.”
According to 106 of the Act, it states the following with regard to State Child Protection Society and District Child Protection Unit:
“106. Every State Government shall constitute a Child Protection Society for the State and Child Protection Unit for every District, consisting of such officers and other employees as may be appointed by that Government, to take up matters relating to children with a view to ensure the implementation of this Act, including the establishment and maintenance of institutions under this Act, notification of competent authorities in relation to the children and their rehabilitation and co-ordination with various official and non-official agencies concerned and to discharge such other functions as may be prescribed.”
According to 107 of the Act, it states the following with regard to Child Welfare Police Officer and Special Juvenile Police Unit:
“107 (1). In every police station, at least one officer, not below the rank of assistant sub-inspector, with aptitude, appropriate training and orientation may be designated as the child welfare police officer to exclusively deal with children either as victims or perpetrators, in co-ordination with the police, voluntary and non-governmental organisations.
107 (2). To co-ordinate all functions of police related to children, the State Government shall constitute Special Juvenile Police Units in each district and city, headed by a police officer not below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police or above and consisting of all police officers designated under sub-section (1) and two social workers having experience of working in the field of child welfare, of whom one shall be a woman.
107 (3). All police officers of the Special Juvenile Police Units shall be provided special training, especially at induction as child welfare police officer, to enable them to perform their functions more effectively.
107 (4). Special Juvenile Police Unit also includes Railway police dealing with children.”
According to 108 of the Act, it states the following with regard to public awareness on provisions of Act:
“108. The Central Government and every State Government, shall take necessary measures to ensure that—
- the provisions of this Act are given wide publicity through media including television, radio and print media at regular intervals so as to make the general public, children and their parents or guardians aware of such provisions;
- the officers of the Central Government, State Government and other concerned, persons are imparted periodic training on the matters relating to the implementation of the provisions of this Act.”
(c) Arguments for 4 by using 4(a) and 4(b)
The arguments are as follows;
- If the police arrest of two school students took place with an FIR being registered against the school students, declaring that the two school students had committed a criminal offence, then the crime committed by the two school students must have had attracted an imprisonment of more than seven years, or the offence must have been committed jointly with adults. If that is the crime committed, then according to the Draft Rules of the Act, that offence should be heinous offence, as serious offence or petty offence shall not ordinarily attract imprisonment of the juveniles – who are the two school students, here. A heinous offence, is a criminal offence which attracts a minimum punishment under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force is imprisonment for seven years or more. According to 86 (1) of the Act, where an offence under this Act is punishable with imprisonment for a term more than seven years, then, such offence shall be cognizable, non-bailable and triable by a Children’s Court.
Now, the question is: if at all, an FIR was registered and because of which the two school students, who are supposedly – unless otherwise proved – to be juveniles, were arrested by the state police, then in order to arrest the two, the crime committed must have been “heinous crime” only and the trial of the “heinous crime”, as per 86(1) of the Act, is to be conducted only in Children’s Court, so, whether the two school students, who were arrested by the police, were tried in Children’s Court or not is a valid question. Was the trial done in Children’s Court in Imphal? Was the criminal offence committed by the two school students “heinous” in nature?
- Was the Government of Manipur, through state police, honouring the principle of non-stigmatising semantics of the Act by not objecting to the adversarial or accusatory words which are often used by the police in the processes pertaining to a child, particularly in the case while handling school students of Manipur?
- Should the Government of Manipur, through police records, ensure that all past records of any child under the Juvenile Justice system should be erased except in special circumstances so that the principle of fresh start, enshrined in the Act, becomes a possibility?
- Did not the Government of Manipur, through police arrest and resorting to legal proceedings, neglect the principle of diversion of the Act – “measures for dealing with children in conflict with law without resorting to judicial proceedings” – which shall have been promoted unless it was in the best interest of the child or the society as a whole?
- According to 9(1), 9(3) and 10(1) of the Act, the two school students should have been produced before the Juvenile Justice Board within a period of twenty-four hours of apprehending the child excluding the time necessary for the journey, from the place where such child was apprehended. Were the two school students produced before the Juvenile Justice Board in Imphal, and if so, were they produced within the said 24 hours?
- According to 12(1) of the Act, the two school students should be released on bail with or without surety or placed under the supervision of a probation officer or under the care of any fit person, otherwise their non-release must be justified by the Juvenile Justice Board which shall record the reasons for denying the bail and circumstances that led to such a decision. It is in this regard that the fellow school students’ demand for the release of their classmates – the two school students arrested – is very much in consonance with a legitimate demand of the young citizens of India for the effective implementation of Section 12 of the Act. According to 12(2) and 12(3), even if the two school students are not released, then they are ought to be kept “only” in an observation home or a place of safety, and not in any other place. If the release of the two school students does not get materialised, then according to 12 (4) – when a child in conflict with law is unable to fulfil the conditions of bail order within seven days of the bail order, such child shall be produced before the Board for modification of the conditions of bail – the two school students’ bail conditions shall be modified by the Juvenile Justice Board. The point is that the duration of “within seven days” of the bail order must be taken note of. Therefore, the question – “Are the two school students to be produced before the Board for modification of the conditions of bail, if at all if they are not released within seven days of the bail order?” – becomes pertinent not only to release the arrested school students but also to uphold the Section 12(4) of the Act.
- According to 74(1) of the Act, no report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or audio-visual media or other forms of communication regarding any inquiry or investigation or judicial procedure, shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particular, which may lead to the identification of a child in conflict with law. And, if anyone contravenes Section 74(1) of the Act, then its Section 74(3) sanctions punishment with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or both. What has the state Government of Manipur done to prohibit the disclosure of the identity of the arrested two school students? If either name or address or school of the two school students is already been disclosed, then what has the state Government of Manipur done to prosecute those elements which have attracted punishment under Sec. 74(3) of the Act?
- When the Government of Manipur, through its state police, used water cannon to disperse the school students who were juveniles, then instead of the state police handling the situation which involved juveniles, Manipur Child Protection Society and Imphal West District Child Protection Unit, as sanctioned in Section 106 of the Act, and Child Welfare Police Officer and Special Juvenile Police Unit, as sanctioned in Section 107 of the Act, were expected to be present in such a situation to not only handle the juveniles but also to implement the Act in toto. If the Government of Manipur has Child Welfare Police Officer of the nearest police station, under which the school students have gone to demonstrate their resentment in a democratic society, and Special Juvenile Police Unit of Imphal West, then were they – the child welfare police officer and Special Juvenile Police Unit of Imphal West – present in the site where Manipur Police used water cannon to disperse and control the school students? If they were present, then did they or Manipur Police used water cannon? What is the role of Manipur Police in dealing with juveniles demonstrating democratic resentment if Special Juvenile Police Unit of all the districts exist in Manipur?
- According to Section 108 of the Act, the Central Government of India and state Government of Manipur shall take measures to ensure the general public, children and their parents or guardians to be aware of on the provisions of the Act, but what has the state Government of Manipur done so far to create such public awareness on the provisions of the Act in Manipur to uphold Section 108(a) of the Act? What steps have been taken up by the state Government of Manipur to impart periodic training, as per Section 108(b) of the Act, to its officers, including police officers, on the matters relating to the implementation of the provisions of this Act?
(5) Are children being used by adults? If so, then what can the state do?
a) Section 83 of Juvenile Justice Act 2015
According to 83 of the Act, it states the following with regard to use of child by militant groups or other adults:
“ 83 (1). Any non-State, self-styled militant group or outfit declared as such by the Central Government, if recruits or uses any child for any purpose, shall be liable for rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine of five lakh rupees.
83 (2). Any adult or an adult group uses children for illegal activities either individually or as a gang shall be liable for rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine of five lakh rupees.”
b) Is prosecution not using Section 83 of the Act a sign of non-involvement of adults in using children?
The argument that the school students are being used remotely by adults to pursue the ends that are planned and projected by the adults is also to be considered seriously. But, the point is whether the adults use the school students or not is to be, at the least, required to attract an allegation from the prosecution of such adults by the state of Manipur, which has not happened so far in Manipur. The prosecution, which is to be done by the state of Manipur, is free to invoke Section 83(1) and 83(2) of the Act to save the children from being used by the adult group or any adult or any non-State, self-styled militant group or outfit declared as such by the Central Government. The onus of proving that the children are being used by the adults lies with the prosecution which is the state of Manipur. In the case of using 83(2) of the Act, the prosecution needs to establish not only the using of children but also the illegal activities being performed. What has stopped the prosecution from booking the adults as per Section 83(2)? What criminality is to be established is to be first presented by the prosecution? Why is the prosecution silent on the use of Section 83(1) and 83(2) of the Act, if the state of Manipur is in serious consideration that the children are being used as against the rule of law, enshrined in the Act? Is not using the power of Section 83 of the Act by the state of Manipur also a sign that the state of Manipur feels that the children are not at all used and therefore, the necessity to use Section 83 does not arise in the present scenario of Manipur?
(6) Conclusion: the future of Manipur lies in the state of being of the present school students of Manipur
The future of Manipur lies in the present state of mind, body and soul of the present students and children of Manipur. If the state police treats the school students in such an inhumane way in a full day publicly by using water cannon in a state’s capital city, then what would one imagine on how the same state police behave with the adults of Manipur in a night? The blame shall also not be wholly on the state police but must fall on the state polity and administration. The silence of the political leadership of different political parties is explicitly expressing that hardly no political leader is so seriously concerned about the state of being of the school students of Manipur, at present. Instead of blaming and attacking the school students, the state of Manipur seems to have even thought of not prosecuting the adults’ using of the children, if at all the prosecution proves that the adults’ use of children exists for illegal activities. While it appears that prosecuting school children becomes easier by nabbing them from the streets, the prosecution clearly fails to even raise the powers of Section 83 of the Act. The prosecution could also not be a failure in using Section 83 but it could also mean that the adults are not in any way using the school students, meaning that the school students have demonstrated their resentment willfully on their own without any coercion or favour. The legality and implementation of Juvenile Justice Act 2015 along with its Draft Rules could save many more children from being harassed, discriminated and assaulted by both state and non-state actors or adult or adult groups, and therefore, the necessity to spread the rights of children, as enshrined in the Act, is the foremost presentation that I can offer at this critical juncture of human civilization in Manipur.