Juvenile cases on the rise in Rupandehi, but the court fails to use its child-friendly roomThe law states that every court should have a separate room for the hearing of juvenile cases
One of the doors on the first floor of Rupandehi District Court is labelled “Child-friendly Room”. The room is supposed to be for juvenile delinquents to spend time prior to their court hearings.
But the room wears an abandoned look as if it’s not been used for years. Four worn-out chairs, some books and toys covered in a thick film of dust occupy the room.
“It’s been seven years since I joined the court,” said an official under conditions of anonymity, “and I have never seen any children entering this room. It is as it is today as it were back then.”
Adjacent to the room is the Juvenile Desk, a room to try minors accused of crimes and delinquencies. Just like the “Child-friendly Room”, the Juvenile Desk of the court building is also in a dire state. There is a video system in the room meant to project the video of the accused child speaking in real time on a room s/he is comfortable in, but that too doesn’t work.
“We’ve established the Juvenile Desk considering child psychology during hearings. But because of lack of resources, it’s not fully child-friendly,” Narishwore Bhandari, coordinator of the Juvenile Desk and the chief judge of the court, said.
According to Bhandari, the court doesn’t appropriate separate fund for juvenile cases.
“We do have a separate room for juvenile cases but that’s about it,” Bhandari said.
Even though the government allocates separate funds for juvenile hearings under the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen, even after repeated requests, the Rupandehi court hasn’t allocated any budget for the purpose, according to Bhandari.
As per the prevailing laws, each court should allocate a separate room for the hearing of juvenile cases. But according to the chair of Central Child Justice Committee Dr Anandamohan Bhattarai, the Juvenile Desks have not been up to the mark in any court.
A three-member committee-including the chief judge, an expert on children’s issues and a child psychologist-has been formed in every district court to look into juvenile cases. The committee is also tasked with helping children reform their ways and to provide them justice.
“Due to the lack of child-friendly environment, many cases have not gone as they should have,” Bhattarai said. Of late, juvenile cases are on the rise in Rupandehi. In the past 10 months, 85 juvenile cases have been registered in the district.
“Juvenile cases have been rising by the day, but we don’t have decent rooms to keep the minor offenders,” said Shakuntal Karki, the central committee member of Central Child Justice Committee. “It’s high time that the government paid attention to this problem.”