144 Minors Detained Since Art 370 Abrogation: J&K Panel Tells SC

The J&K panel cited a police report which specified that no minors were illegally detained since 5 August.

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India
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The Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s Juvenile Justice Committee on Tuesday, 1 October, told the Supreme Court (SC) that 144 juveniles between the ages of 9-17 have been detained since the Centre revoked Article 370 in the now-Union territory on 5 August. The panel specified that no children were detained “illegally” in the valley.

The submission by the four-member committee, headed by Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey, has quoted the J&K Director General of Police's (DGP) report. It said that 142 children have already been released while two were still in juvenile homes.

“The state machinery has been constantly upholding the rule of law and not a single juvenile in conflict with law has been illegally detained,” read the State DGP’s report to the committee.

The police report said these juveniles were detained under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act and kept at observation homes.

When the matter came up for hearing before the top court on Tuesday, a bench of justices NV Ramana, MR Shah and BR Gavai told senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha, that it has received a report from the Juvenile Justice Committee of the high court, in which the averments regarding alleged detention of minors have been denied.

Ahmadi said he would like to file a reply to the report of the committee. The bench allowed Ahmadi to file a reply to the report and listed the matter for hearing after two weeks.

On 20 September, the apex court had asked the committee to undertake an exercise with regard to the facts stated in a petition filed by the two child right activists, who have alleged that minors were illegally detained in Jammu and Kashmir after the move to abrogate Article 370.

The four-member Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir HC, headed by Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey, said in its report that when the 23 September order of the apex court was brought to its notice, a meeting was immediately convened to ascertain the facts from the agencies concerned.

“The committee also decided to obtain data from the courts subordinate to the High Court of J&K, and the registrars judicial of the two wings of the high court about the bail applications or Habeas Corpus petitions, if any, moved on behalf of juveniles or where it was claimed that the arrested persons or the detainees were juveniles.”
The committee said in its report to the top court.

Citing information provided by police and other agencies, the committee gave details of the cases under which these juveniles were detained.

It said pursuant to the direction, the Jammu and Kashmir DGP filed a report on 25 September in which he categorically refuted the assertions and allegations made in the media and the petition.

"It is pertinent to state that no child has been kept or taken into illegal detention by police authorities as strict adherence is placed on the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act," the DGP's report to the committee said. "However, in connection with the children, whosoever was found in conflict with law, same was strictly dealt in consonance with provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act and strict directions have been provided from time to time to deal with the provisions of the relevant Act," it said.

"The averments hence surfaced in the petition have been wrongly reflected in the petition and stand devoid of merits," it added.

Quoting the DGP’s report, the committee told the top court that he has categorically denied the allegations made in the petition.

Citing one instance which the petition has referred to that in violation of law the juveniles have been picked up by police and lodged in the jail, the DGP report said the averment does not corroborate with information received from the field formations.

"It is nothing but facts having been imagined from thin air submitted before the court," the report said.

The DGP report to the committee also referred to a reported incident of an 11-year-old being detained and said it was not factually correct.

"It seems that this report has been generated with the intention to malign the police and to create the story which may have element of sensationalism," the DGP's report to the committee said.

The report also says that the "averments reflected in the petition are based upon hearsay and haphazard media reports" and goes on to referred to various reported incidents which appeared in the print and online media, including some foreign publications, and categorically denies them.

One of the articles mentioned in the report was published by The Quint while others include those by The Washington Post, TRT World, Scroll and Caravan.

The committee, in its report to the top court, has also said that two observation homes have been established in the state - one at Harwan in Srinagar and other at R S Pora in Jammu.

Thirty-six juveniles were lodged in Harwan's observation home since 5 August, out of which 21 were bailed out while enquiry regarding 15 was going on, it said.

Ten juveniles were lodged at RS Pora observation home from 5 August till 23 September, out of which six were bailed out while enquiry against remaining four was going on, it added.

(With PTI, IANS inputs)

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