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No child kept or taken into illegal detention in J&K, Supreme Court told

A file photo of Kashmiris clashing with the security personnel, in Srinagar.

A file photo of Kashmiris clashing with the security personnel, in Srinagar.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

Juvenile Justice Act procedure is ‘strictly’ followed in arrests of juveniles in conflict with law, says report

Hundred and forty-four juveniles “in conflict with law” were arrested in Jammu and Kashmir between August 5 and September 23. The youngest of them was nine years old. Almost all of them were released either on the same day or after a brief period in observation homes.

A total of 46 juveniles were detained in observation homes in Srinagar and Jammu since August 5, when restrictions were imposed across the State following the dilution of Article 370 and the abrogation of the special rights and privileges of the people of Kashmir. Twenty-five juveniles — 21 from Srinagar and four from Jammu — were bailed out from these homes. The remaining — 15 in Srinagar and six in Jammu — are still lodged there pending enquiry.

This is what the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Juvenile Justice Committee reported to the Supreme Court. The report is based on information provided by the DGP and the Mission Director, Jammu and Kashmir Child Protection Society. The Committee, chaired by Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey, and composed of three other High Court judges, was assigned by the Supreme Court to ascertain the veracity of reports which appeared in international and domestic media that the police had illegally picked up and detained children after August 5.

The Committee quoted the police chief that “no child has been kept or taken into illegal detention by police authorities”. The police chief said the juveniles were “strictly dealt in accordance under the Juvenile Justice Act”. The report records the police chief’s version that lawful process is followed when investigating agencies establish involvement of minors in stone-pelting, rioting or causing damage to public or private property.

For instance, the DGP refers to how a juvenile in Awantipora was “apprehended in his own interest” lest he should fall “in the company of violent mob and expose himself to moral, physical and psychological danger”. This juvenile, the police chief said, was handed over to his parents the same day.

“No largescale picking up of minors in the jurisdiction of the above places [Awantipora, Pulwama, Pampore, Tral, Khrew] was made and allegations are purely concocted and motivated… The State machinery has been constantly upholding the rule of law and not a single juvenile in conflict of law has been illegally detained,” the official said.

In fact, a child subject to custody is lodged in an observation home on the orders of the Juvenile Justice Board. The police chief describes these observation homes as “reformatories” which offer a “conducive atmosphere for counselling and rehabilitation”.

A State nodal officer of ADGP rank monitors the juvenile cases. Moreover, each police station has a police officer designated for juvenile cases.

The police chief said reports about illegal detention were “exaggerations to settle political scores and demoralise State action”.

The DGP dismissed several media reports either as unsubstantiated or outrightly wrong. The police chief used phrases like “exaggerated beyond proportions”, “imagined from thin air”, “meant to malign the police and create sensationalism” while describing allegations and media reports of children in illegal custody. The official said these narratives portray the police as a “predator on the prowl”.

The DGP termed the dilution of Article 370 as a ‘historic’ decision.

On its own, the Committee merely informed the apex court that certain “regular” habeas corpus petitions were filed against “regular” detention orders of the District Magistrates under the Public Safety Act. In such cases, the detenus usually claim to be juveniles.

In these instances, the High Court orders an enquiry into the age etc of the detenu concerned.

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Printable version | Jun 28, 2020 2:08:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/no-child-kept-or-taken-into-illegal-detention-in-jk-supreme-court-told/article29574559.ece

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