“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Incredible but true – Kashmir lacks a Juvenile Justice System

Passed 11 yrs back, Juvenile Act awaits implementation

Wasim Khalid (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Passed in 1997 in Jammu and Kashmir, the Juvenile Justice Act is yet to be implemented here. The State Government has not implemented the Juvenile Justice Act although it was promulgated in India in 1987 and introduced in Kashmir in 1997.

However, the act has got entangled in “official intricacies”. Social activists here said that it is unfortunate that the State has not implemented the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act even after 11 years. “There is no Juvenile Court to hear the cases of the children,” said Rouf-ul-Mohiudin, a founder member of Jammu and Kashmir Yateem Foundation. “After 10 years of propagation, the act still has not been implemented,” Mohiudin said who runs a resource centre on social issues, ‘Koshish’. “The recommendations of the act demand that State should form rules for juvenile courts to become functional.”

He said as no rules have been formulated for the last decade, the same adult laws apply to children.“After arresting the delinquent children, police treats them as adults. They are kept in with other prisoners and forced to undergo the same court procedure as other criminals. So they are weird completely after undergoing such an experience,” said Mohi-ud-Din. “They are ruined in jails.”

Social activist, Shaiq Nazir said if juveniles are not taken care of, it would embolden criminal tendencies among the children. “This would ruin the new generation.” Nazir said: “In conflict region like ours, the troopers are not authorised to arrest a child while spotting uniform. During questioning of a juvenile, a lady constable should accompany the child.” Nazir said that last year three children were detained in Central Jail Srinagar and informed that they were kept with desperadoes.

Another social activist Nighat Shafi Pandit said, “If established, Juvenile Courts could give proper hearing to the children who commit crime. Otherwise if they are kept with criminals, they would inherit the same traits and ape them.” Pandit said that the juvenile courts would also strive for rehabilitation of such children. “They are taken special care so that their thinking changes.”

Legal expert said the accused up to 16 year of age are sent to juvenile court for trial.“But in the State, their cases are heard by the Chief Judicial Magistrate. It is because the Government has framed no rules for the Juvenile Courts,” said CJM Srinagar Advocate Irshad Ahmad Masoom.

He said that the purpose of the legislation was to protect children from exposure to the criminal culture and to rehabilitate them. “There is scope of rehabilitation of children under this Act. If children commit crime, they are taken to juvenile centres. Their needs are fulfilled and their criminal tendencies minimised,” said Masoom. He said unemployment and modern lifestyle have led to increase in the crime rates among the children. “It is unfortunate that the act is not implemented,” Masoom said. “During the past 18 years children have been victimised and used as a resource by militants and military.”

Director Social Welfare department, M Abbas said that the department has taken up the case with the government on this issue.He said establishing the Juvenile Courts is the first preference of the department. “Due to non-availability of funds, we could not proceed further. We have no funds to build juvenile homes,” Abbas said.