Srinagar: Facing flak for detaining juveniles with hardened criminals in jails, especially during the 2010 summer protests, the government organised a programme on Wednesday in partnership with UNICEF to create awareness about Juvenile Justice Act 2013 among the police.
The Act, which came into spotlight after a public outcry demanding stringent punishment to a juvenile accused in 2012 Delhi Nirbaya rape case, provides a reformative way of handling offences involving children below 18.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Asgar Samoon, who inaugurated the two-day “Capacity Building of Juvenile Police Officers and Special Police Units”, said though the law is in vogue here but sanitization of stakeholders is necessary for implementation of the Act.
He said the law puts emphasis on the rehabilitation of a child rather punishment, which was the case earlier.
“We have set up a juvenile home and many other initiatives are being taken for fully implementing the provisions of the Act but sanitization is essential especially for police officers. They are the first contact. Especially Station House Officers, teachers, community leaders can bring a social change by raising awareness about the rights of children,” Samoon said.
Also, Samoon said judiciary needs to be sanitized about its role in handling with juvenile cases.
“Children have to appear in courts for hearing which is against the JJ Act. Even if a minor commits an offence, we don’t have to dub him as hardened criminal,” he added.
Admitting that the police had to slap the Public Safety Act on two juveniles during the 2010 protests, deputy inspector general of police (central Kashmir) Ghulam Hassan Bhat said the police will have to deal with children as per the newly-enacted law.
Bhat said police officers have to show compassion towards such children and treating such cases badly would leave mental and psychological impact on minors.
“If a child is not treated well in case he commits a mistake, it becomes a lifetime liability.
In 2008 stone throwing protests, children were brought to police station because we didn’t know how to handle such cases,” Bhat said.
“In many cases, parents handcuff children for committing a mistake but instead we have to provide emotional care to them,” he added.
If children resort to stone pelting, they have to be counseled rather than putting them behind bars, he said.
Child Protection Specialist UNICEF India Tannisthta Datta, while giving a presentation about the JJ Act, said even though children commit an offence, they have to be rehabilitated.
“The basic principle of the JJ Act is not punitive but reformative in nature. The JK JJ Act rules are the best compared to other states especially with regard to the role of police,” said Tannisthta.
UNICEF’s child protection consultant Hilal Bhat presented a detailed situation analysis of child protection and the role of the UNICEF in Jammu and Kashmir on how to deal with challenges in implementing JJ Act 2013.