Srinagar: The high court on Thursday came down heavily on the lackadaisical approach of the state government for not establishing juvenile justice homes in Jammu and Kashmir. The court issued directions to the commissioner of the social welfare department to tender an explanation on his absence in the court.
The court also directed the law secretary to file fresh compliance report by August 11 on the number of juveniles lodged in jails across the state.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey expressed dismay over the state government’s failure in creating juvenile homes. The bench remarked that unconcerned government was not complying to court orders from time to time. The court issued direction to Advocate General BA Dar to ensure that the report was submitted on the next hearing.
The court had directed the state to constitute juvenile justice boards by 28 December 2015 but despite more than a year passed, the government has not done anything substantial in this direction.
“It is the basic right of children to have a juvenile home where they can feel homely and be able to get all the basic necessities from food to education. You cannot put a child into a jail, this will leave him with marks of violence which may not be physical but psychological,” chief justice Ahmed observed.
The PIL was filed by a Haryana-based social worker Tanvi Ahuja who has since expired. Consequently the title of the PIL has now been altered to Court on its own motion versus the state of Jammu and Kashmir and others.
Ahuja had stated that thousands of juveniles have been arrested over the years under J&K Public Safety Act (PSA) and sections of 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 up 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 had 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 had said.