Juvenile Justice Act: J&K angle

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The police in Kashmir held 144 children in detention including a young nine-year-old boy since August 5th.Child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha filed a petition in Supreme Court arguing for the illegal detention of children by security forces present in Kashmir following which the court allocated Jammu and Kashmir’s High Court Juvenile Justice Committee to investigate into reported allegations.

As reported by a court’s appointed committee this detention has been committed at the time when the government revoked the Jammu and Kashmir’s special status i.e. Article 370 and thereafter imposed a lockdown.

A nine-year-old boy named Sahil Ahmad Sheikh was detained but according to the committee’s report, he was acquitted the same day. The committee totally relied on the statements made by the Kashmir police officials regarding the veracity of the incident.

The government officials have admitted the detention of 114 children out of which children as young as nine or eleven years old since August 5 however, the government denied any sort of illegal detention reported by the media. Furthermore, the government cited the media reports to be exaggerating and sensational.

The police officials claim that these detentions were the result of activities committed by the children like that of rioting, stone-pelting. The next hearing of the case is set to take place on 16th October to know the view of the Supreme Court. 

The JJ Act: Salient Features

  • The JJ Act categorizes the children as those in conflict with laws and in want of proper care and protection. The juvenile in the conflict of law basically means the children who are alleged for the commission of an offence whereas the children in need of special care and protection implies those who are vulnerable to growth and survival due to various situations.
  • Earlier all the cases, where children required proper care and protection,were within the final authority of the Child Welfare Committee but now such cases fall within the purview of the District Magistrate (DM). The District Magistrate acts a grievance redressal authority for the Child Welfare Committee. A person may file a petition before the district magistrate following which the DM would pass all the appropriate orders.
  • The Child Welfare Committee is responsible for conducting inquiry of children brought before it including the orphans and surrendered ones.
  • The JJ Act includes setting up of a number of institutions including the Observations Homes for children’s whose inquiry remains to be in process, children’s home for those who require proper care, special homes made particularly for those children in conflict of laws and after care organizations for care and protection of children released from specials homes as well as children’s homes. 
  • The appropriate authority to deal with the cases of children who are certainly in conflict with law is the Juvenile Justice Board. The board consists of three members one being the Chairperson and the other two social workers among which one should be woman. The chairperson must have the position of First Class Judicial Magistrate. The board is responsible for examining whether a crime has been committed either as a child or as an adult.
  • The recognition of child rights are now acknowledged and a comprehensive definition of adoption has been introduced.

Applicability of the Act:

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 extends to the whole of India. Soon after the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the JJ Act would now be applicable in J&K too.

As it has been laid down by the Department of Information and Public Relations that all the acts aiming to protect the child as well as woman rights would be applicable in J&K, and thus Juvenile Justice Act being one such act.

After the abolition of Article 370, the application of other acts having similar objectives of child protection and welfare, like Protection of Women from Domestic Violence, Commission of Child Rights Act, 2005 and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act would be applicable in Jammu and Kashmir.

A girl below the age of 18 years and a boy below the age of 16 years is deemed to be minors within the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986. After the enforcement of the JJ Act, 2000, where an accused was above 18 years of age then ultimately the JJ Act 2000 would be applicable for the reason being the accused not reaching the age of 18 years on such enforcement is not at all justifiable.

Thus,in this case, i.e. Jameel vs. the State of Maharashtra, the charged person was of 16 years of age, so the JJ Act 2000 would not be somehow applicable.

Whether the act is applicable to youth in J&K?

It is quite evident to note that the Juvenile Justice Act will now be effective in Jammu and Kashmir. It will cover all aspects of the youth of the state.This act constituted of key central laws which were made for the welfare of the children of the country which could not be earlier implemented in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the situations are changed now. The Jammu & Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act, 2013 was not followed in letter and spirit as its provisions were not inclusive of strict penalties and therefore, the enforcement was rendered weak.

With the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 prevailing in the state, the youth will certainly be more empowered and justice will be administered effectively.

What is the current implementation status of JJ Act in J&K?

The enforcement of Justice Juvenile Act in Jammu and Kashmir has been pretty slow. When juveniles commit atrocious acts like rioting or stone-pelting they are not imprisoned.

The reason for such fact is that sending children to prison or lockup at such tender age would provoke them to convert into hardened criminals making them callous and unsympathetic towards society which is precisely not the aim of the Juvenile Justice Act.

Thus, special police units, particularly for children have been established at many police headquarters and the police officials are specially trained in workshops for dealing with juveniles creating a nuisance.

In order to avoid stone-pelting and rioting by the juveniles, a child welfare officer is appointed who then undertakes proper management of such cases. Proper counseling of juveniles indulging in these acts must be made mandatory rather than punishing them or taking them in custody.

The JJ Act aims towards the care and protection of children and during prohibitions like that in Jammu and Kashmir, the act strives to improvise the situation by handling juveniles with love, care and proper understanding rather than punishing the innocents.

Conclusion: Way Forward

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 is the most significant legal framework for juvenile justice in India. The Act provides for a special approach towards the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency and establishes a framework for the protection, treatment, and rehabilitation of children in the purview of the juvenile justice system. This Act is considered to be extremely progressive legislation in India.

It was quite a disadvantage for the state of Jammu and Kashmir that this act was earlier, not applicable within the state but with the scrapping of the provisions of article 370 and 35A, Jammu and Kashmir has benefited immensely enabling the people to access and enjoy the same rights, same privileges and the same facilities as their fellow citizens in the rest of the country. 

Children are recognized as the supreme assets of the nation. The future of the nation lies in their hands. So, the laws made regarding them should be carefully analyzed and thought upon keeping in mind the changing social perceptions. It is important that such laws are adopted by the whole country unanimously. The revocation of article 370 has been really helpful in achieving this outcome. 

-This article is brought to you in collaboration with Yashika Kapoor from Fairfield Institute of Management And Technology, GGSIPU, New Delhi.

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