HC calls for optimistic approach on Juvenile Justice Act

HC calls for optimistic approach on Juvenile Justice Act

Takes umbrage at the pay decided for retired judge heading oversight committee
Srinagar: An ‘optimistic approach’ is required to implement the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act in ‘letter and spirit’, the J&K High Court said on Saturday.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Justices Ali Mohammad Magrey and BS Walia directed the government to make sure that the selection-cum-oversight committee headed by a former judge of the high court is fully functional rather than existing on paper only.
“The object sought to be achieved by the PIL is to primarily see that the mandate of the Act is implemented in its letter and spirit. An optimistic approach is required to be shown by all concerned. Mere constitution of the committee does not suffice unless such constitution is made meaningful by extending all possible help to it, including financial support,” the court said.
The court made these remarks after perusing a communication addressed to the chairperson of the committee, Justice (retd) Husnain Masoodi, by the Secretary Social Welfare Department. The secretary had stated that though there was no state or central government budget for the position of the committee chairperson, the government had considered paying Rs 2,500 per sitting to the chairperson.
“The communication placed on record by the state counsel sounds bizarre, as the appointed chairperson being a former judge of the High Court on his post-retirement assignment is entitled to all the benefits and facilities as are available to a sitting judge of the High Court, less pensionary benefits,” the court said.
In the recent past, the bench said, the government had appointed a former judge of the high court as chairman of a committee for fixing fee structure of private educational institutions, and in compliance with the court’s directions, the government had issued an order that the chairman of the committee was entitled to pay equivalent to that of a sitting judge of the high court, minus pension.
The high court directed the government to fix the terms and conditions of the appointment of the chairperson of the selection-cum-oversight committee at par with the chairman of the committee for fixing fee structure of private educational institutions. The court directed the government to file compliance report by May 15.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by a Haryana-based social worker, Tanvi Ahuja. She had stated that thousands of juveniles were arrested over the years under the J&K Public Safety Act (PSA) and under the Ranbir Penal Code, instead of being tried under the state Juvenile Justice Act.
“The situation in J&K is extreme. There are no Juvenile Justice Boards in the entire state and as such these juveniles have been treated as adults, beaten, and put in jails, contrary to numerous decisions of the Supreme Court holding that the Juvenile Justice Act has supremacy over all other Acts while trying offences committed by children,” Ahuja said in her petition. No juvenile, she said, should ever be put in a jail and ought to be held in juvenile-friendly institutions.
“Instead, alleged stone pelters are arrested by the police, tortured, produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate and immediately remanded to police or jail custody. They remain in jail for fairly long periods and are ill treated and never rehabilitated,” she said.
Juveniles released on bail, she said, are often rearrested on the same charge and many of them remain in jail without their trial commencing for several months.

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