Revisit probe into preventive detention charges, SC tells J&K juvenile justice panel

A view of the Supreme Court of India.  

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked a juvenile justice committee of four senior judges of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to revisit their enquiry into allegations of preventive detention of children by security forces, saying time constraints may have earlier handicapped the committee's ability to independently apply their minds to the task.

The Supreme Court had ordered the committee led by Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey to enquire into the veracity of reports in international and domestic media that children were detained after the August 5 lockdown that followed the abrogation of Article 370.

The news reports were brought to the attention of the court by a petition filed by Enakshi Ganguly, represented by senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi.

On Tuesday, Mr. Ahmadi submitted: “How can there be preventive detention of children? Even the Public Safety Act does not allow the preventive detention of children.” He objected to the report filed in October by the committee, saying it merely reproduced the information provided by the J&K police chief without any independent application of mind by the judges to what was true.

In that report, the committee quoted the police chief that “no child has been kept or taken into illegal detention by police authorities”. He had said juveniles found in conflict with law were “strictly dealt in accordance under the Juvenile Justice Act”. The report had recorded his version that lawful process was followed when investigating agencies established involvement of minors in pelting of stones, rioting or causing damage to public or private property.

Mr. Ahmadi said, “The Director General of Police is an adversarial party in the case... After all, the police are the party involved.”

And the three-judge Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana acknowledged his objections to the nature of the committee's report.

Justice Ramana took strong exception to the petitioner's claim that the committee “abdicated” its duty by not independently applying its mind to the allegations. He, however, said the apex court also “tentatively feels” that the committee should conduct a further and elaborate enquiry.

In this context, Justice Ramana referred to Mr. Ahmadi's submissions that the apex court's direction was not fully addressed by the committee. Justice R. Subhash Reddy, on the Bench, also “accepted” Mr. Ahmadi's contentions that the committee did not elaborately delve into the allegations of children in preventive detentions.

The Bench said the situation has changed in J&K, courts were functioning and lawyers coming to courts. This would ensure the prospect of a detailed enquiry this time around.

Solicitor General’s plea

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the J&K government, suggested that the petition of Ms. Ganguly should be disposed of by the apex court after sending the issue back to the committee. Otherwise, it would send a wrong message that the State was not up to the task.

Justice B.R. Gavai explained to Mr. Ahmadi that the committee was not a “fact-finding” one but a judges' body set up under the Juvenile Justice Act.

“Prima facie, it looks like the judges could not independently apply their minds due to lack of time... But had they had the time and found your contentions wrong, neither this court nor you nor the Solicitor General could sit in appeal over them,” Justice Gavai addressed Mr. Ahmadi.

Ms. Ganguly's petition has been posted for hearing on December 3.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 4:16:50 PM |

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