Public Safety Act
Sparing children will be a great move
LEGAL DEBATE BY B L SARAF
The Public Safety Act (PSA ) may have withstood the test of the constitutionality. It may not be a lawless law, as some over enthusiastic activists would like us to believe.
Living as we are in the mine fields of hate and terror spread around and people with triggers in their hands ready to pull them, any time anywhere, one can’t wish away this law. Its desirability, though not welcome, can’t be questioned at this stage. But then the hard fact remains.The PSA has some measures in it which, in the present scenario of activism for the respect of human rights and transparency, look a bit incongruous. The law surely needs a human face and a human heart. In this regard, it is gratifying to note that the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s government is under way to mollify some provisions of this law. The CM has given a broad idea of the change like curtailing the period of detention of a detenue under Section 18 of the Act and that the Advisory Board would be made more potent than hitherto. Nevertheless, it would do a lot of good to his intentions if the proposed amendments are thrown in the public domain for a thorough debate so that a comprehensive view crystallizes, which may ultimately go into the making of a modified humane law.
One significant announcement made by the CM, in this regard, is that the children would be taken out of the purview of the PSA. Welcome move indeed! Though one could argue that the presence of the children within the sweep of the PSA is absolutely illegal. They shouldn’t have been be there in the first place. The reason being that the custodial detention of the children – the juvenile delinquents ,accused of commission of offence of any nature, is anathema to the cannons of municipal and moral law. How many times have we argued through these columns that a child /juvenile who has come in conflict with law cannot be punished or sentenced to any kind of imprisonment. In worst case scenario the juvenile delinquent has to be given in charge of his parent, guardian or a Probation Officer appointed under the relevant law. One may tell the CM that apart from proposing to remove children out of the PSA various other categories of the persons need to be kept away from the Act ; for example women, old and infirm. A simple way to do so will be to define ‘any person' in Section 8 of the Act in clear and unambiguous terms.
Continuing with the cause of the children, who constitute one third of India’s population, one can safely say that most of them are neglected everywhere. In J& K the unpleasant situation has made their plight all the more miserable. Thousands have been orphaned. The neglect often brings them in conflict with the law. When we talk of the juvenile delinquents many legal provisions -spread across various enactments –and the pronouncements of the Apex Court, made time to time, come to our mind. Lately, the Honorable Supreme Court has ruled in case Sampurna Behrua v Union of India - a public interest litigation - that the Director Generals of police of the states should designate one police office in each police station as juvenile/child welfare officer to look after the interests of a juvenile. Besides , the legal services authorities were asked to train such police officers.Needless to say that under Legal Services Authorities Act the children are entitled to the free legal aid. The pronouncement of the Apex Court is law of the land.
Thanks to the National Legal Services Authority and the State Legal Services Authority legal clinics have been set up in most parts of the state of J&K, where services of para- legals have been made available to provide free legal aid and advice to the poor, women and the children. Nonetheless, there is an urgent need to spread awareness among the deprived and disempowered sections of the society living in the far flung areas of the state. The state government may face hurdles in streamlining or revoking some of the laws, but this is the area where it can – and it should- make improvement without any constraints and the encumbrances..NGOs too have a job cut out for them.
(B L Saraf is Former Principal District & Sessions Judge. Feedback at email@example.com or call at 94191-61022)
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Nov 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Nov 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 14 Nov 2011 00:00:00 IST
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