Govt promises on juvenile justice fall flat

Finance Dept Sits Over New Bill, Keeps Raising Queries

UMER MAQBOOL

Srinagar, Oct 7: For the past two years the promises made by the J&K Government on upgrading juvenile justice law in the state have proven to be the eyewash. A bill aimed at updating the law for the protection of child rights in the state is shuttling between the Social Welfare and Finance Departments, even as the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has gone public that the law will be brought in conformity with the national and international standards.
 According to sources, the Finance Department has again raised some queries on the financial memorandum of the bill. “The memorandum has been repeatedly facing queries from the Finance Department since 2011. And three weeks ago, some queries were again raised by the Department,” they said.
 Pertinently in the wake of the widespread criticism by global rights bodies including Amnesty International, the Jammu and Kashmir Government decided to frame new law to replace the ‘flawed’ and ‘obsolete’ JK Juvenile Justice Act -1997, last year
 Following the same, the Social Welfare Department prepared a draft on the directions of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and subsequently forwarded it to the Law Department for clearance. After its fine-tuning, the Law Department cleared it in September last year.
 After its nod, the Social Welfare Department submitted financial memorandum to the Finance Department for its concurrence.
 However in November 2011, the Finance Department after studying the financial implications returned the bill to the Social Welfare Department, asking them to modify the amount required for setting up of the requisite infrastructure needed. The file was again submitted to Finance Department earlier this year by the Social Welfare Department after some modifications.
 An official, privy to the issue, said: “Jammu and Kashmir is only state where children don’t have effective legal cover for protection and if the Bill gets through, it would help protect their rights.”
 When contacted, the Social Welfare Minister Sakina Itoo said that government is committed to upgrade juvenile justice law but the “main roadblock in its way is the money needed for setting up the requisite infrastructure.”
 “Yes, Finance Department has recently raised queries over the financial memorandum,” she admitted.
 The Commissioner/Secretary Social Welfare Department Jeet Lal Gupta said the file has been re-submitted to the Finance Department.
 “We are hopeful that it will get the nod shortly,” he added.
 At present, according to Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act 1997, children below the age of 16 years are treated juvenile in Jammu and Kashmir while in other states, by the virtue of the Central Juvenile Justice Act 2000, the cut off age of minors is 18.
 The issue of minors’ detention under Public Safety Act and then putting them in lock-ups instead of juvenile homes here since 2008 has evoked sharp criticism from the national and the international rights groups.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 7 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 7 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 8 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST




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