SWD passes the buck over juvenile boards, HC not amused

Srinagar: The High Court has termed as ‘unsatisfactory’ the Social Welfare Department’s response that it has taken up the matter regarding the constitution of Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) with the state’s law department for appointment of the Chairman and two members of these boards.
“Jammu and Kashmir is the only state where juvenile boards are yet to be constituted because of the special bureaucracy,” a division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey retorted after perusal of a compliance report by the Commissioner Secretary of the state’s Social Welfare Department. “The compliance report filed by the Commissioner Secretary does not satisfy the directions issued by the Court on the last date of hearing,” the bench added.
The court had directed the government to constitute the JJBs by December 28, observing that the purpose of enacting the Juvenile Justice Act in the state “stands frustrated” due to non-compliance with the legislation. “One of the essential purposes of legislating laws is to reintegrate children who are in conflict with laws and who needs care and protection within society,” the court had observed and also directed the government to comply with provisions of the J&K Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2013 and Rules of 2014.
“Till date, neither the Act nor Rules have been given effect on the ground. The purpose to be achieved under Act or Rules instead of being accomplished stands frustrated,” the court had said and reminded the government that it was duty bound to comply with the law made by it.
The state enacted the J&K Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection t of Children) Act in 2013 and as per Chapter-II of the Act, Juvenile Justice Board would consist of a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class to be appointed by the High Court and be designated Principal Magistrates and two social workers as members, one of whom must be a woman, to be appointed by the government on the recommendation of a Committee constituted under rules 79 and 80.
“As per section 3(a) Juvenile Justices Act, the nomination of Judicial Magistrate of First Class is not within (my) competence and accordingly vide a letter on 14 December 2015, the law department has been requested to approach High Court for the appointment of a Judicial Magistrate as Principal Magistrate for discharging the duties of Chairman of Juvenile Justice Board as envisaged in the Act/Rules,” the Commissioner Secretary said.
The officer also stated that the effectuation of the Juvenile Justice Act was linked with the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS).
“The scheme has already been formulated and a draft scheme sent to General Administration for their advice with to certain features of scheme relating to staff and manpower,” the officer said.
To implement fully the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, the state government has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of India on a 90:10 funding basis for implementation of the integrated child protection scheme, to protect and safeguard the interest of children.
In May last year, the court had directed the government to wake up from “deep slumber” in the interests of children and fully implement the legislation.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by a Haryana-based social worker, Tanvi Ahuja, through her counsel, advocate Irshad Ahmad. In the PIL, Ahuja has stated that thousands of juveniles were arrested over the years under the J&K Public Safety Act (PSA) and 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.
“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 of time where they are ill treated and never rehabilitated,” she added.
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: “The trial is in an open court like any normal criminal trial.”