The Delhi High Court on Friday, taking exception to the failure to control rioting by the inmates of juvenile homes, directed the government and police to ensure maintenance of law and order in all the homes.
A division bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Manmohan took suo moto cognizance of recent incidents of juveniles going on a rampage and observed that "hands-off attitude" of the officers will not serve any purpose and "power and responsibility has to be clearly defined".
"Something is wrong. System is responsible for this, there can't be lawlessness. We can't allow rioting on daily basis, it means you are doing nothing," the bench said during the hearing.
The bench observed that between August and December, there had been four incidents of rioting, fires and escapes at observation homes for juveniles, in conflict of the law, run by the Delhi government's women and child development department.
Rajeev Kale, the department's director, who was present before the court, said it had not been able to control the violence due to lack of standard operating procedures as well as multiplicity of authorities, such as the national child rights panel, the Delhi child rights panel, the supervision committee, NGOs and social activists.
"These multiple authorities have undermined the status as well as power of the officer-in-charge of the observation homes as they have frequently interfered in the administration of observation home," he said, adding that certain hardened juvenile accused, convicted for murder, have recently been moved to the observation home.
Recording the submissions of the officer, the court said that keeping in view the emergent situation, it would make Kale as well as a senior officer of Delhi Police, not less than the rank of deputy commissioner of police, to be nominated by the police commissioner within 24 hours, personally responsible for maintenance of peace as well as law and order in all the homes.
The bench further said that the two officers will be at liberty to devise standard operating procedures forthwith as to how to deal with cases of rioting, fires and escapes at observation homes.
"They are also given authority to deploy more staff and force in all the observation homes. They are also given option to segregate the juveniles according to their discretion," the court said and posted the matter for Feb 5, 2014.
As per the news reports, on Dec 16, a group of minors had escaped from an observation home in Delhi's Kingsway Camp after an eight hours of rioting, vandalism and arson.
The report added that two groups of juveniles started a fight in the centre in the afternoon. Though the authorities managed to intervene, some of the inmates were injured and had to be taken to a nearby government hospital.
Meanwhile, the juveniles inside the home again created a ruckus and began to fight. They snapped the power supply to the centre and some climbed up the terrace and managed to escape by jumping over the boundary wall of the centre.
The report said that they had set fire to the hall, bashed up the staff with iron rods and attacked them with knives. Most of the staff, fearing for their lives, fled from the home and police had to be called in.