The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday issued notice on a PIL concerning illegal detention and torture of juveniles during the anti-CAA protests in the State of Uttar Pradesh.
A Division Bench led by Chief Justice Govind Mathur has asked the UP Government to file a counter affidavit, with specific averments regarding statutory compliance with the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 in all the districts of the State.
The PIL was filed by an NGO namely, HAQ Centre for Child Rights, alleging that in the process of preventing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, many minors were detained and tortured by the police in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
It had urged the Court to seek an Action Taken Report from the State Government, detailing the measures and steps undertaken since December 2019 to ensure that children are not harmed in their interface with the law enforcement machinery in the course of protests.
It had also sought a direction upon the Principal Magistrate and a member of the Juvenile Justice Board(s) to undertake weekly or regular jail visits to ensure that no child is incarcerated in adult jails, in terms of Section 8(3)(m) of the JJ Act, 2015, and file a consolidated monthly report of such visits with the Juvenile Justice Committee of the High Court.
As per a fact-finding report titled "Brutalizing Innocence" prepared by the Petitioner-organization, "Despite national and international legislations, and the respect accorded to jus cogens norms even in times of war, close to 41 minors have been detained and subjected to custodial torture, criminalization and post custodial coercion in UP."
The Petitioner-organisation had apprised the Court that the above incidents were in brazen violation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, which the procedure by which minors / children who may come in conflict with the law are to be dealt with. "It provides inter-alia that no minor shall be detained in adult police lock ups, and provides various non-negotiable guarantees against abuse and torture," the Petitioner submitted.
It was further argued that the Police has acted against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ('UNCRC'); and the fundamental right to life with dignity of minors/ children guaranteed under Articles14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.
The High Court thus took note of the alleged omissions and also made reference to an order passed by the Court in October, 2020, which deals with the issue of vacancies in Juvenile Justice Boards.
Chief Justice Mathur was of the view that instead of limiting the reliefs to the four districts dealt with in the report, the State should inform the Court about the status and compliance with the JJ Act and the duties and responsibilities of the State, with respect to all districts of Uttar Pradesh.
In the passing, the Chief Justice orally remarked that perhaps there is a need to set up a Committee to monitor the implementation of the JJ Act.
The matter is now listed for hearing on 14 December, 2020.
The Petitioner's counsels are Advocates Vrinda Grover, Soutik Banerjee and Tanmay Sadh.
Case Title: HAQ Centre for Child Rights v. State of UP & Anr.
[To Be Updated With Order]