Srinagar: Nearly 900 children sent to Kashmir’s lone Juvenile Observation Home since 2011 were accused in “stone-pelting” cases. They constitute above 55 percent of the total number of juveniles who stayed in the home in the past eight years.
According to officials, the Observation Home at Harwan received nearly 1,626 kids between September 23, 2011, and November 14, 2018, on the orders of Chief Judicial Magistrates and Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs). More than 55 percent of them (896) were accused of being “stone-pelters”.
Currently, there are only four of them at the home, the rest 894 having been bailed out from the special facility under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.
As per official records, the Observation Home received thousands of children accused of different offences but the offence of stone-pelting topped the list. It was followed by theft and robbery (205), rape (142), quarrel (66), kidnapping (61), militancy (30), accident (24), and wrongful restraint/assault on women (19).
Other offences included exam fraud, arson, anti-religious activities, anti-national acts, border crossings, attempt to murder, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, cyber crimes, unnatural offences, etc.
Three children escaped from the home during this period, according to official records.
“Presently, 23 children in the age group of 12 to 17 years are lodged in the home. Most of them belong to north Kashmir,” the latest record says.
Child rights activists and experts argue that the new draft of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2018 will be “misused” in J&K as the government has proposed to lower the legal age of juveniles from 18 to 16 years.
The Jammu and Kashmir government recently issued a draft Juvenile Justice Bill that provides for trying juveniles aged between 16 and 18 years for heinous crimes under laws for adults.
Child rights activists and legal experts want the government to adhere to the current justice system as majority of the cases involve “children of conflict” in J&K.
The draft bill is facing opposition from experts who say the age bar should be kept as per the 2013 act, expressing apprehensions about violation of rights of children by the new law which is being proposed at a time when many minors have been charged with “attempt to murder” and “rioting” after being caught during stone-pelting.