PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has failed to implement important provisions of Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018, despite passage of the law over a year ago. The law includes setting up of committees concerned, juvenile rehabilitation centres and their observation homes.

Activists dealing with child rights issues said that it was binding on the provincial government to establish Juvenile Justice Committees (JJC) for each sessions division within three months of enactment of the said law, but so far the government had failed to comply with it.

The committee consists of four members including a serving judicial magistrate, who shall also head the committee, district public prosecutor, a member of local bar association having at least seven years’ experience to be appointed by the sessions judge concerned and a probation officer or social welfare officer not below the rank of BPS-17.

“As the formation of JJCs has no financial implication, therefore, the government should have notified these committees at the earliest,” said Imran Takkar, project coordinator of Group Development Pakistan, an organisation working on different child rights issues.

The Juvenile Justice System Act (JJSA), 2018, replaced the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, which was promulgated during the military government of retired General Pervez Musharraf. Several changes were made in the present law as compared to the previous one especially the process of diversion, setting up of juvenile rehabilitation centres and observation homes and JJCs.

This law was enacted in May 2018. It defines a juvenile as a child who may be dealt with for an offence in a manner which is different from an adult. Similarly, a child means a person who has not attained the age of 18 years.

The law assigns different functions to the JJC including: disposal of cases through diversion upon referral from the police, prosecution or the juvenile court within a period of one month from the date of the referral; and, inspect observation homes and Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres (JRCs) and may give directions to the officer-in-charge of such places for the measures to be taken for the welfare and social re-integration of the juvenile kept under their supervision.

“While the law provides that an arrested juvenile shall be kept in an observation home and the officer-in-charge of the police station shall, as soon as possible, inform guardian of the juvenile and concerned probation officer, so far no observation home has been set up in the province,” Imran Takkar said.

The observation home is defined as “a place where a juvenile is kept temporarily after being apprehended by police as well as after obtaining remand from Juvenile Court or otherwise for conducting inquiry or investigation for the purpose of this Act.”

Another important provision is about establishment of JRC, which means “a place where a juvenile may be kept and given education, vocational or technical training for his mental, moral and psychological development and includes certified institutions, juvenile training institutions, borstal institutions, vocational centres, darul-amaan and women crises centres established by the Government or by voluntary Organization certified by the Government.”

Imran Takkar said that despite this mandatory provision so far no observation home or JRC has been made functional in any of the districts across the province. He said that they had interacted with lawmakers of the ruling party and they had also made commitment for implementation of the law, but so far no proper steps had been taken in this regard.

The law also provides for diversion in cases of juvenile offenders, which is defined as: “an alternative process of determining the responsibility and treatment of a juvenile on the basis of his social, cultural, economic, psychological and educational background without resorting to formal judicial proceedings.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2019

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