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…