Punjab gets rap for ‘ignoring’ juvenile
Chandigarh, October 10
Speaking at a seminar organised by the Monitoring Committee on Juvenile Justice of the High Court, Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur said the Punjab government has not met several statutory requirements of the Act. “A basic body like the child welfare committee is missing from most districts, no inspection committee has been set up to monitor the working of children’s homes and there is no shelter home in the state,” he said.
“The state had not bothered to set up a juvenile justice fund and the state has no advisory board either for the implementation of the Act,” he added.
“When it comes to Acts and adopting conventions, we (in India) have made the loftiest declarations and created perfect comprehensive acts,” he said quoting from the provisions of the National Charter for Child Rights.
“Our Acts provide all protection and bring out our utmost commitment towards the protection of the rights of the children but how many provisions of these Acts are actually implemented on the ground is a question that needs to be answered,” he said.
Justice Thakur also pointed out the pendency of cases being heard under the Juvenile Justice Act. “I have been told that 776 cases are pending in Punjab where the juveniles have been in observation home for over two years. In Haryana there are 4,000 cases where the juveniles have been in observation homes for more than four months,” he said. Justice Thakur added that the state governments should be careful in choosing members for the juvenile justice boards.
The seminar was presided over by Justice MK Sharma, judge, Supreme Court, who pointed out that the Juvenile Justice Act has been misused by criminals to avoid punishment and that aspect too needs to be looked at. “When we (judges and judicial officers) are considering juvenile delinquency cases, we need to be conscious of the possible exploitation of the provisions of the Act but not approach every case with suspicion,” he said.
He added that the future belongs to reformative criminal justice system and the age-old tradition of “prayashchit” should be the cornerstone of observation homes and jails.
He said no state in the country had bothered to set up commission for child rights and a dedicated children’s court.
The chairman of the monitoring committee, Justice Ranjit Singh, related his experiences of his visits to the various observation homes in Punjab and Haryana. He added that there was an urgent need for the judicial officers to speed up hearing the cases that deal with children in conflict with law.
Justice JS Khehar, Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Adarsh Goel, all of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, also spoke on the occasion.
During the technical sessions, Dr Harpreet Chabbra of the Department of psychology, Panjab University, Dr KD Singh of the Haryana police also spoke on various aspects of the Juvenile Justice Act.