Quoting the report of the Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police that no child is under illegal detention in the state, the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Committee has submitted its report to the Supreme Court.
As per the police report, 144 juveniles, including children aged 9 and 11, were arrested since August 5, after curfew measures were imposed in the region in the wake of the abrogation of the state's special status. Some of them were released on the same day of arrest, and rest were proceeded as 'juveniles in conflict with law' under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2013, stated the report.
"The State Machinery have been constantly upholding the rule of law and not a single juvenile in conflict with law has been illegally detained" ,asserted the DGP in his report given to the four member Juvenile Justice Committee.
The DGP added that the juveniles in custody are kept in Observation Homes based on orders of the concerned Juvenile Justice Boards. It was further said by the DGP that the Child Welfare Committees were effectively working in the state .
On September 20, the Supreme Court had directed the Committee to report on the allegations of of illegal detention of children in Kashmir raised in the PIL filed by child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha.
After that, the Committee headed by J&K HC judge Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey met on September 23 and resolved to call for reports from the courts, including the High Court, regarding bail applications and habeas corpus petitions filed in respect of juveniles. The Committee also sought a report from the Director General of Police, J&K and Divisional Commissioners of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh about the allegations made in the petition.
The DGP reported to the Committee refuting the allegations. The DGP claimed that whenever juveniles were apprehended as part of preventive measures taken to maintain public order, they were dealt in accordance with the procedure laid down in Juvenile Justice (State Act) 2013.
The PIL by Ganguly and Sinha had referred to at least 12 specific cases of detention of children reported in media outlets The Washington Post, The Telegraph, Business Insider, The Quint , TRT World and Scroll. News reports of large number of minors and youths being picked up by security forces in places like Pampore, Awantipora, Khrew, Tral, Pulwama etc, were also cited in the PIL.
Regarding these reports, the DGP said :
"The specific allegations made in the petition have not been corroborated from the information received from the field formations. The individual cases where it is alleged that in violation of law the juveniles have been picked up by the Police and lodged in Police lock ups have been found not factually correct".
The media reports were discredited by the DGP as "generated with the intention to malign police and to create the story which may have element of sensationalism". Most of the media reports were lacking in sufficient details for an enquiry, said the police report. The facts in the media reports where 'imagined from thin air', the Committee quoted the DGP as saying.
"It happens often that when minors/juveniles indulge in stone pelting, that they are momentarily held up on the spot and sent home. Some of these incidents are exaggerated beyond proportion," the committee quoted the police as saying.
The averments in the PIL were "categorically denied" by the police as "totally baseless, fallacious, and based on media reports that have no evidentiary value" .
The Committee also said that it called for report from Mission Director, Jammu and Kashmir Child Protection Society (JKCPS) about the status in the two Observations Homes in the State - one in Harwan, Srinagar and the other in R S Pora, Jammu.
As per the JKCPS Director, in Observation Home in Harwan, 36 juveniles in conflict with law were received from August 6 to September 23. Out of them 21 were bailed out, and enquiry is going on with respect to the remaining 15. As regards the Observation Home in R S Pora, Jammu, 10 juveniles in conflict with law were received during the period, and 6 out of them have been bailed out. Enquiry is pending as regards the remaining 4 persons, mentioned the JKCPS Director.
In its report submitted to the J&K HC Registrar (for being forwarded to the SC), the Committee has annexed the reports submitted by the DGP and JKCPS Mission Director, without expressly endorsing or disputing their contents. There is no mention of the Committee having made any independent verification of the conflicting versions in the reports of the police and media. The Committee report - an outcome of a six day exercise after the SC order - is silent about any field visits, inspection of Observation Homes or interviews with the detained juveniles carried out by the Committee.
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