Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Thursday directed the government to inform the court by June 10 about the steps taken by it for implementing J&K Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act 2013.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Social worker Tanvi Ahuja through Advocate Irshad Ahmad, a division bench of Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey asked Additional Advocate General Bashir Ahmad Dar to inform the court as to what steps have been taken by the government in implementing the Act effectively in the state.
“The concerned authorities are expected to wake up from the deep slumber at least in the interest of children for whose benefit the act has been legislated by the state legislature,” the bench observed.
Seeking to implement the provisions of Jammu & Kashmir Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, the petitioner pleads that the authorities be directed to submit before the High court details of the cases pending in all the courts against the juvenile offenders including those lodged in different jails of the state.
While the petition seeks rehabilitation package to the children whose cases have not been decided within the stipulated period, it pleads release of juveniles below 18 years of age from the prisons and police lockups of the State.
The petitioner seeks directions to respondents to house juveniles only in observation homes in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu & Kashmir Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, and establishing of Juvenile Justice Boards, observation homes and Juvenile Courts for the protection and welfare of juveniles.
The petitioner seeks directions for establishment of the Commission to interview the juveniles who have been or are incarcerated in prisons and police lockups in the State to study the situation including the allegations of torture and submit a report to the Court.
It also seeks to award appropriate compensation to the juveniles who were or are lodged in prisons and police lockups.
The petition underlines that there are “no Juvenile Justice Boards in the state and alleged stone pelters are arrested by the police, tortured, produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate and immediately remanded to police or jail custody”.
The petitioner points out that the accused juveniles are ill treated in jails where they remain for long periods of time and are never produced before the Juvenile Justice Boards.
“They are never rehabilitated. They suffer in the criminal justice system as if they are adults. Juveniles released on bail are often rearrested on the same charge. Many of them remain in jail without their trial commencing for several months. The trial is in open court like any normal criminal trial,” reads the petition.
The petitioner has referred to the fact finding report by Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) released in 2011 and submitted that “The State government of Jammu & Kashmir has been illegally detaining minors under the Public Safety Act (PSA) of 1978 that provides for up to two years of preventive detention.
Citing the report the petition underscores that “a large, unknown number of children have been detained under the PSA and detention of these minors is illegal as the Supreme Court of India in numerous judgments held that the Juvenile Justice Act has supremacy over all other Acts while trying offences committed by children in conflict with the law”.
Prisons in Jammu and Kashmir, petitioner submits, have a large number of juvenile prisoners and “prisoners who have been arrested as minors but who have subsequently attained adulthood during their detention and are charged as adults in contravention with India’s national laws and international obligations”.