BENGALURU: From petty thefts to gruesome murders, over 5,000 cases were registered against juveniles in the state in the last three years. These exclude cases where children nearing the age of 18 and in conflict with the law were passed off as adults by the police, experts point out.
According to statistics made available by the Karnataka State Crime Records Bureau (KSCRB), as many as 1,807 cases were registered in 2013, while it was 1,803 in 2014. This year, till November, 1,448 cases have been registered.
While Bengaluru City, Shivamogga, Hassan and Kalaburagi top the list with a high number of juvenile delinquency cases, districts like Udupi, Kodagu, Yadgir and Dharwad have seen less number of cases.
Additional Director General of Police (Police computer wing) P Ravindranath, who looks after KSCRB, said that children aged under 14 years are unlikely to commit crime. “It is usually the 14-18-year-olds,” he said.
The number of cases registered against juveniles will come down if those above 16 years of age are treated as adults in serious cases. Most of the cases registered against those in that age group are related to murder, theft and robbery, he pointed out.
A senior officer from KSCRB said that many times, the age of the alleged offender is shown to be more. “In cases of juvenile delinquents, the process is different and tedious. They cannot be produced before regular courts. Police have to wait hours before producing them before the Juvenile Justice Board. In order to escape from this tedious process, sometimes, police fudge the offender’s age by one or two years (depending on their physical built) and produce them before regular courts,” he admitted.
If convicted, the offender is sent to jail. “In prison, where there are many undertrials and convicts, a person below 18 years of age can become prey and also a criminal,” he added.
Vasudeva Sharma, a former member of the Karnataka State Child Welfare Commission, also said it is a known fact that police fudge the age of juvenile offenders in some cases.
“Ten years back, when we went to Parappana Agrahara Central Jail, we identified 165 undertrials who were below 18 years of age. Most of these children are from poor backgrounds and are illiterate. Police record their age according to their whims. They send back juvenile offenders if it is a petty issue. However, they book the offenders in cases like murder, dacoity or rape,” he said.
Referring to the number of cases registered in the state, he said it is less compared to the population. “In Karnataka, 39 per cent of the population are aged less than 18, which means around 2.5 crore are in this age group,” he said. He also pointed out that most cases involving juveniles are from broken families where parents, mostly from poor backgrounds, give less attention to their children.