A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court against the illegal detention of children in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of revocation of Article 370 and bifurcation of State.
The Petition was filed by Ms. Enakshi Ganguly, an eminent child rights expert and Professor Shanta Sinha , the first Chairperson of the National Commission for Child Rights (NCPCR).
The PIL brings to the notice of Supreme Court incidents relating to illegal detention of children in Kashmir as reported in the media and seeks urgent judicial intervention in the matter.
The Petitioners submit that there have been certain reports specific to children, which describe violations that include loss of life and liberty, and that the reports are serious enough to merit judicial review of the situation with respect to children and to enforce and monitor certain immediate corrective action.
The petitioners highlight two important areas of concern, the first pertains to illegal (if temporary) detention (and in some cases beatings) of young boys by security forces. The second concerns serious injuries and deaths of children through deliberate or accidental action by security forces.
It is submitted, on the basis of extensive news reports that a large number of minors and youths have been picked up by security forces in places like Pampore, Awantipora, Khrew, Tral,
Petitioners submitted that as a constitutional democracy, it is imperative, especially in these extraordinary circumstances that the Supreme Court ensures that no excesses take place against women and children, who are admittedly most vulnerable in such tense situations.
The Petition filed through Advocate Sumita Hazarika, makes the case that even if the child is a potential 'stone-pelter', he should not be detained without express written orders of a judicial authority, describing the provision of law permitting such detention.
The petition also highlights the incidents relating to maiming and injuries caused to children.
It is submitted that the situation in Kashmir today is urgent and disturbing from the perspective of children's wellbeing. It would appear from the reports that the state is acting in violation of both specific laws with respect to children and also of constitutional principles and International Child rights commitments.
"With the abrogation of Article 370 and the consequent passing of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 the immediate safety and protection of Kashmiri children becomes the responsibility of the Union Government. It is in this context that the Petitioners pray that the Supreme Court act as parens patriae to the children and direct the government to submit a status report on actual detentions, injuries and deaths of children between August 5th 2019 to the present day".
It is also alleged in the petition that the Children in the Kashmir valley have been regularly detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Although the Act makes no reference to the 'administrative detention' of children, the security forces and police routinely detain children, especially boys between the ages of 16 and 18 years.
"It is relevant to note that such extraordinary situations have a deep and everlasting impact on the psychological well-being of children and by ignoring the urgency of the situation we may 'lose' a generation of citizens to state excesses".
As per the petitioners, the reported cases of violence on children in Kashmir calls for a need to make an inquiry into such cases in keeping with the Constitutional mandate that the state has a duty in ensuring that children get equal opportunities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. It is the duty of the state to ensure that the children are able to live and grow in an environment that is safe and secure, and one in which they are able to express themselves and share their problems without fear of retaliation or vindictive action.
Petitioners seeks a direction to Respondent to file a status report detailing the current whereabouts, and the medical (both psychological and physical) status be provided on the specific children described in this petition, who have been detained or were detained and who have been beaten up in custody.
It is also prayed that all persons below the age of eighteen years who are detained in any police station, detention centre, jails, or any other confinement, by whatever name called in Jammu and Kashmir be identified through an age census conducted under the aegis of the Juvenile Justice Committee of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir
It is also prayed that all children who are currently detained be produced before the Juvenile Justice Committee of the High Court and brought under their care and supervision, so that they may be provided with the necessary support.
Petitioners also seek a direction for payment of compensation to children who have been maimed or illegally detained and to families of children who have died.
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