On Christmas Eve, IBJ India with complete support from Delhi Prisons visited Jail No. 7 of Tihar, which houses prisoners between the age group of 18-21, and decided to bring in the gift of Knowledge and Legal Representation. The group comprised of Ajay Verma, IBJ India Fellow; Rajesh Mahajan, Advocate, Additional Standing Counsel of Delhi Police before Delhi High Court, Jitendra Ratta, Volunteer Lawyer working with IBJ; Aditya Kumar, Advocate volunteering with IBJ; Pallavi Saxena, Advocate interning with IBJ. The intention behind the visit was to have an interactive session with the young prisoners and to create awareness about their rights. The group of prisoners present for the session were all mostly aged 18 years, or as many stated even 17 years. The Superintendent of the Jail told the group about the purpose of the visit, and then the session began with introduction of the group members.
As the purpose of the visit was to create awareness about The Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, along with its basic provisions, it was introduced to them, and they were repeatedly told that they were all entitled to a Free legal aid, if unable to afford legal representation. As the discussion progressed, many spoke about the grievances that they have, such as one prisoner stated that even though he had put in a request to the court, no lawyer has been provided to him.
It was understood from this discussion, that many in this group are illiterate, and thus completely unaware as to the specifics of their case. Further, some 20 prisoners stated that they were below the age of 18 years, and without any legal representation. Thus it was decided to deal with the prisoners on one-on-one, and gather information about their cases, so corrective action can be taken. As there were 5 members of the group that were present, each spoke to the prisoners individually and details about their case was gathered. Around 40 cases have been taken up by IBJ India, wherein 50% of the prisoners have stated that they are below 18 years of age. Many instances were revealed wherein the ‘system’ has faltered, one specific instance is that of one deaf and dumb prisoner, who has been in the prison for the past 8 months. As there was no way to understand him, a phone call was made to his brother whose number was written on his forearm. The prisoner, according to this brother, is 17 years of age, but no notice has been taken of this fact. Thus, it is IBJ’s endeavor to provide legal representation to all these cases, and to take corrective action for the children stating their age to be less than 18 years on a priority basis.
The visit was a small effort in understanding the plight of the children who are on the brink of the adulthood, yet not completely there. Lastly, the visit was scheduled for the Christmas Eve, so as to provide a positive outlook to the children, and cakes were distributed to the children to spread the Christmas Cheer! Needless to say but this is one of the positive initiatives of Prison Administration to work with the NGOs to make the prisoners aware about their rights.