MUNNA Vs. STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH
LAWS(SC)-1982-1-36
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (FROM: ALLAHABAD)
Decided on January 19,1982

MUNNA Appellant
VERSUS
STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH Respondents

JUDGEMENT

- (1.) These three writ petition come before us on notice to the State of Uttar Pradesh. They seek relief in respect of certain juvenile undertrial prisoners in the Kanpur Central Jail. The allegations in respect of these juvenile undertrial prisoners are that though there is a Children's Home in Kanpur, these juvenile undertrial prisoners who are, according to the allegations in the writ petitions, more than 100 in number are lodged in the Kanpur Central Jail instead of being sent to the Children's Home and they pre being sexually exploited by the adult prisoners. These allegations are based on a news report published in the issue of the Indian Express dated 2nd December, 1981 where a reference is made to a visit of Shri Madhu Mehta of' the Hindustani Andolan to the Kanpur Central Jail incognito. Shri Madhu Mehta, according to this news report, found that "young boys of 10 to 14 years" were being "supplied to convicts for their delectation" and a boy named Munna whom he met, was in agony because "after the way he was used, he was unable to sit". When these three writ petitions based on the news report came up for admission, it was not possible to state whether these allegations contained in the news report were correct or not. But if they were correct, they disclosed an extremely distressing state of affairs and they were sufficient to shock the conscience of the court. The Court, therefore, issued notice. to the State of Uttar Pradesh in each, of these three writ petitions, But, it appears that, in the meanwhile, a writ petition bearing number 14645 of 1981 was also filed in the High Court of Allahabad by an organisation called Human Rights Organisation seeking relief in respect of these juvenile undertrial prisoners and on this writ petition, the High Court of Allahabad rightly activated itself and decided to investigate into the matter and with that end in view, made an order dated 18th December, 1981 requesting the seniormost Sessions Judge of Kanpur to visit the Kanpur Central Jail and to make a report on the following points : 1. Whether there is any detenu below the age of 16 years who is being detained in the Distt. Jail, Kanpur if so, the names of such detenus and the offences in connection with which they are being detained be indicated. 2. Whether any detenu below the age of 21 years is being kept under fetters or was being kept under fetters 3. Whether any such person is being subjected to torture of the nature mentioned in the petition 4. Whether such inmates of the prison are being provided with proper medical facilities The Sessions Judge accordingly visited the Kanpur Central Jail on 21st December, 1981 and submitted his Report dated 22nd December, 1981 to the High Court of Allahabad. We do not propose to consider this Report in detail at this stage, but suffice it to state that according to this Report, there were admittedly seven juvenile undertrial prisoners below the age of 16 in the Kanpur Central Jail, but, curiously enough, barring one Deshraj who was transferred to the Children's Home Kanpur on 19th December, 1981, all the rest happened to be released on different dates between 7th and 16th December, 1981, before the order made by the Allahabad High Court on 18th December, 1981. It is rather interesting to note that the news report in the issue of the Indian Express was published on 2nd December, 1981 and Writ Petition No. 8974/81 which is the first of these three writ petitions was filed by Miss Lily Thomas on 3rd December, 1981 and these juvenile undertrial prisoners were released within a few days of the publication of the news report and the filing of the writ petition. Even so far as Deshraj is concerned, though he was admitted in the Kanpur Central Jail. on 7th March. 1981, he wag not transferred to the Children's Home Kanpur until 19th December, 1981 after the order was made by the Allahabad High Court. The consequence of release of these undertrial juvenile prisoners, except Deshraj, was that the Sessions Judge could not interview any of them when he visited the Kanpur Central Jail on 21st December, 1981. The Sessions Judge gave in Annexpure A to his Report the names, ages and other particulars of 84 undertrial prisoners who, according to the jail record, were above 16 but below 21 years of age and added that the possibility could not be ruled out that on proper scientific medical exanimation, three or four out of these 84 undertrial prisoners might be found to be below 16 years of age. The Sessions Judge picked out nine from amongst these undertrial prisoners and got them examined by the Chief Medical Officer and enclosed the Report of the Chief Medical Officer as Annexure B to his Report. The Sessions Judge also reported that there appeared to be general ignorance in the Kanpur Central Jail about the provisions of the U. P. Children Act. 1951 and observed : "All the child accused mentioned in Annexure B should have been produced before the Juvenile Judge after their arrest. Where there was doubt whether the detenu was above the age of 16 or below it, he should have been sent for medical report in connection with his age and on being found to be a child, should have been dealt in accordance with the Children Act." The Sessions Judge instructed the Jail Superintendent and the jail doctor that in case there was any doubt about the age of an undertrial prisoner, they should instead of relying upon the police papers with regard to age, obtain the opinion of the Chief Medical Officer and ''apprise the court concerned of it so that the presiding officer directs the accused to be produced before the Juvenile Judge to. enable him to take the benefit of the provisions of the Children Act for a better social order." We do not know what order has been passed by the Allahabad High Court in the writ petition before it but when these three writ petitions came up for hearing before us on 5th January, 1982, the Report of the Sessions Judge was placed before us and an affidavit in reply was also filed by the Assistant Jailer of the Kanpur Central Jail denying the allegations made in the news report.
(2.) Now in the first place, since these three writ petitions are based upon certain statements said to have been made by Shri Madhu Mehta and set out in the news report of the Indian Express, we think it would be. desirable to join Shri Madhu Mehta as a party respondent in each of the three writ petitions, so that he can place before the court all the facts gathered by him in regard to the juvenile inmates of the Kanpur Central Jail. The Assistant Jailer has in his affidavit in reply disputed that Shri Madhu Mehta ever visited the jail, but since, according to the news report, Shri Madhu Mehta entered the jail incognito, it is quite possible that the Assistant Jailer may not have any record of his visit. But, since the Assistant Jailer has denied the visit of Shri Madhu Mehta, we think it necessary that Shri Madhu Mehta should be impleaded as a party respondent to the Writ petitions so that he can state on oath whether he visited the Kanpur Central Jail and if so, what were the facts which he observed. We cannot reject in limine the allegations made in the news report in regard to what Shri Madhu Mehta found in the course of his visit to the Kanpur Central Jail, merely because the Assistant Jailer has disputed the visit of Shri Madhu Mehta. The, allegations are indeed so serious and, if correct, disclose to what utter depths of depravity man can sink, that the court cannot abdicate its constitutional duty of ensuring human dignity to the juvenile undertrial prisoners and summarily throw out the three writ petitions merely on the basis of a denial made by the Assistant Jailer. We must investigate into this matter not only in the interest of fair administration of justice but also for enforcing the basic human rights of these unfortunate juvenile undertrial prisoners who are alleged to have been the victims of sexual exploration. Juvenile delinquency is, by and large, a product of social and economic mal-adjustment. Even if it is found that these juvenile have committed any offences, they cannot be allowed to be maltreated. They do not shed their fundamental rights when they enter the jail. Moreover, the object of punishment being formation, we fail to see what social objective can be gained by sending juveniles to jails where they would come into contact with hardened criminals and lose whatever sensitivity they may have to. finer and nobler sentiments. That is the reason why Children Acts are enacted by States all over the country and the U. P. Legislature has also enacted the Uttar Pradesh Chidren Act, 1951. Since, according to the Report of the Sessions Judge, there were 7 juvenile undertrial prisoners below the age of 16 years, that being the limit of age below which a juvenile would be regarded as a 'child' within the meaning of the Uttar Pradesh Children Act, 1951, and out of these seven child undertrial prisoners, six were released prior to the visit of the Sessions Judge and they could not therefore be interviewed by the Sessions Judge we would direct Shri O. P. Garg, Secretary of the U. P. State Board of Legal Aid and Advice, to immediately contact these six children after finding out their addresses either from the court proceedings or from the jail records and take their statements with a view to ascertaining what was the treatment meted out to them in the Kanpur Central Jail and whether any of them was mal-treated or sexually exploited. Shri O. P. Garg will immediately without any delay, proceed to take the statements of these six children and submit them to this Court along with his report on or before 27th January, 1982. His expenses may be met by the U. P. State Board of Legal Aid and Advice.
(3.) We should also like the State of Uttar Pradesh and the Superintendent of the Kanpur Central Jail to inform us by a proper affidavit before the next hearing of the writ petitions as to what were the circumstances in which these six children whose names are given at serial numbers 2 to 7 in Annexure B were released, and, also produce before us the orders of the Magistrates directing their release. We should also like the State of Uttar Pradesh and the Superintendent of the Kanpur Central Jail to inform us as to why Deshraj was detained in the Kanpur Central Jail from 7th March, 1981 though he was admittedly, even on the basis of the jail records, a child below 16 years of age and, how did it happen that suddenly on 19th December, 1981, an order was obtained for transferring him to the Children's Home, Kanpur. The State of Uttar Pradesh and the Superintendent of the Kanpur Central Jail will also explain as to why such an order for transfer of Deshraj to the Children's Home, Kanpur could not be obtained earlier.;


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