By Aishwarya Iyer / Scroll
Since September 9, Sheena Khatoon* has been spending her days visiting lawyers and activists, desperate to get her minor son out of custody. The previous evening, the boy had been arrested by the Bihar Police after communal clashes during a Mahavir Akhara rally in Barharia, about 250 km from the state capital of Patna.
The boy, along with 35 other people, has been booked under serious sections of the Indian Penal Code relating to rioting, rioting with a deadly weapon, attempt to murder, assault, disturbing a religious assembly, causing grievous hurt, provoking breach of peace and criminal conspiracy.
According to the boy’s birth certificate, issued by the gram panchayat and reviewed by Scroll.in, he is eight years old. However, the Bihar Police has recorded his age as 13.
Siwan district magistrate Amit Kumar Pandey said that the authorities recorded the boy’s age as 13 based on what he “told them when he was in custody”.
Section 83 of the Indian Penal Code states that the acts of a child – defined as being between seven and 12 – cannot be considered as offences until he has “attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences of his conduct”.
His mother is indignant. “Everyone is asking us for proof of his age,” she said “Why is no one asking the police on the basis of what they have decided he is 13?”
The family alleges that the minor was kept in a police station for two nights. According to the Juvenile Justice Act, minors should be taken to an observational home immediately. Pandey, however, insisted that the act was followed and the boy was presented in front of the Juvenile Justice Board within 24 hours.
He is now in the Juvenile Justice Home in Siwan.
The boy’s 70-year-old grandfather has also been arrested.
The two were in a mosque saying their prayers when the Mahavir Akhara procession stopped outside, said Mohammad Aftab*, the minor’s 24-year-old cousin. Fearing for their safety, they remained inside the mosque, Aftab said.
Pandey told Scroll.in that as of Tuesday, 20 people had been arrested in the case. Of the 35 people named in the first information report, 25 are Muslim and 10 are Hindu.
The case has drawn widespread criticism. “Even children are not safe under the new “Secular Chacha” @NitishKumar rule,” said Asaduddin Owaisi, head of the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen, on Twitter. “Instead of catching the rioters, the police are targeting Muslim children. The police personnel should be given strict punishment and the family members of the child should get compensation.”
This story was originally published in scoll.in . Read the full story here