JK Government detains minors illegally: ACHR | ‘Police In The State Fond Of Applying PSA’

By: Anil Anand
New Delhi, Nov 16: The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has accused the Jammu and Kashmir government of illegally detaining minors under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) that provides for preventive detention of up to two years.
Delhi based human rights watchdog, ACHR has said in the absence of a proper juvenile justice system, the state administration has been flouting rules in dealing with minors.
Releasing a report based on a study conducted by its team related to the assessment of the prevailing juvenile justice system in J&K, ACHR director Suhas Chakma said there is no juvenile home for girls in the state which is violative of J&K Juvenile Act. The girl prisoners were sharing space in jails and police lock-ups with male inmates. Out of the 51 cases of juvenile justice examined by the fact-finding committee, nine related to girls, out of which two were categorised as “in need of care”.
“J&K government has been illegally detaining minors,” Chakma said and added the arrests of dozens of juveniles during the mass uprising in Valley from June to September 2010 brought the abuse of PSA against the children in conflict with the law, into focus.
He said while across the country, school certificates are used to determine the age of a juvenile, that is not the practice in J&K. “The J&K Police in all cases argue that those detained are adults.”
He said J&K Police has been fond of applying the PSA and they seldom invoke the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act, 1997. “Consequently, juveniles are denied access to justice and benefits of the special protection provided under the 1997 JJA. The judiciary in Jammu and Kashmir is forced to intervene in every case to invoke the JJA”, he said.
In what he claimed as the pathetic situation of juvenile justice system in the state, Chakma said the only juvenile inmate home located in R S Pura (Jammu) also lacked basic amenities. On top of that the juveniles detained there were not being produced before the courts resulting in their illegal detention in contravention of the existing national laws and international obligations.
Quoting the instance of such an inmate, the team found that Fayaz Ahmed Bhat (25) resident of Gooripora (Ganderbal) was still being kept at the R S Pura centre. He was arrested in 2007 and was detained with adult prisoners for about three years in Srinagar Central jail.
Although the police had contended that Fayaz was an adult when he was picked up but the First Additional District and Sessions Judge, Srinagar in its order dated 12 March 2009, had declared him a juvenile on the date of commission of offence registered against him under Section 302 of the Ranbir Panel Code. “He is condemned to stay in the R S Pura Juvenile Home as both the judiciary and the state have no interest to ensure expeditious trial of his case registered 16 years back,” Chakma alleged.
Enlisting the findings of the fact-finding team, he said the state government has been illegally detaining an unspecified number of minors under PSA. A large number of juveniles have currently been placed in the general jails where many of them attained adulthood during the course of their detention due to a lax justice delivery system.
The study has expressed concern that the state neither has a Juvenile Justice Board nor a Child Welfare Committee resulting in the minors being tried in normal courts. Also, juveniles were being tried with adults if charged in the same offence.
ACHR has recommended that additional measures should be taken to strengthen the juvenile justice system. In this regard it has pointed out that the Juvenile Home being constructed at Harwan was a measures “too little too late”. The state government must provide all facilities to house juvenile delinquent girls. The existing Juvenile Justice Act should be repealed and replaced by a new law in conformity with the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2000.
It has demanded that immediate orders should be issued to try all the pending cases against juveniles by the Juvenile Justice Boards established under the new Act. Ensure that inmates at the R S Pura Home are provided expeditious trial and regularly produced before the courts.
A look at ACHR report suggests that Kashmir is still anything but normal, a situation which continues to fan discontent illustrated by last year’s stonethrowing.
Chakma admits it is hard to know exactly how many juveniles are kept in the state’s adult prison system because of lack of transparency. The report cites 51 cases involving juveniles which ACHR says are being tried illegally in Kashmir’s normal court system.
The detention of juveniles under Kashmir’s special laws is only part of the problem, according to the report.
The study titled “Juveniles of Jammu and Kashmir: Unequal before the Law & Denied Justice in Custody” was conducted by ACHR after field visits to Srinagar, Budgam, Shopian, Pulwama, Islamabad, Kulgam, Ganderbal and Jammu districts from May to July 2010 followed up by updates.


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