Srinagar: The High Court has directed the chief secretary to personally appear before it if juvenile justice boards (JJBs) are not constituted by the third week of March.
A division bench of justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and BS Walia directed the Social Welfare Department to file a compliance report on the formation of these boards. And if the compliance report is not filed, the chief secretary should appear in person on the next hearing in the third week of March.
Last hearing, the high court had termed as ‘unsatisfactory’ the Social Welfare Department’s response that it had discussed with the law department the appointment of the chairman and the two members of these boards.
“The Jammu and Kashmir is the only state where juvenile boards are yet to be constituted because of the special bureaucracy,” the division bench had retorted after perusal of a compliance report by the commissioner secretary SWD.
Last year, the court had directed the government to constitute the JJBs by December 28, observing that the purpose of enacting Juvenile Justice Act in the state “stands frustrated” due non- compliance of the legislation.
“One of the essential purposes of legislating laws is to reintegrate the children who are in conflict with laws and who need care and protection within the society,” the court had observed and directed the government to comply with provisions of J&K Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2013 and Rules of 2014.
The state enacted the Act in 2013 and as per its Chapter-II of, Juvenile Justice Board shall consist 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.
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,” she says. No juvenile, she says, 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 of time where they are ill treated and never rehabilitated,” she says.
Juveniles released on bail, she says, 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.”