The Supreme Court on September 20, 2019 directed the J&K Juvenile Justice Committee to submit a report on the allegations of illegal detention and ill-treatment of children in Jammu and Kashmir. The apex court has asked the committee to submit its report within a week. The court has also sent a notice to the centre on the matter.
The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Bobde and Abdul Nazeer sought the report after hearing a plea filed by child rights expert Enakshi Ganguly and first Chairperson of National Commission for Child Rights (NCPCR) Professor Shanta Sinha against the alleged illegal detention and ill-treatment of children in J&K in the wake of withdrawal of Article 370 and bifurcation of state into two Union Territories.
The two petitioners submitted that there have been extensive news reports that describe violation in J&K including loss of life and liberty and ill-treatment of a large number minor and youth and that the reports were serious enough to call for a judicial review of the situation, especially with respect to the children in the state and enforce immediate corrective action.
The petitioners highlighted the following two important areas of concern:
1. Illegal detention and in some cases beatings of young boys by security forces.
2. Serious injuries and deaths of children through deliberate or accidental action by security forces.
The petitioners stated that as a constitutional democracy, it is imperative, that the Supreme Court ensures that no such violation should take place against women and children, who are most vulnerable in such tense situations.
The petitioners also stated that even if the child is a potential 'stone-pelter', he or she should not be detained without the written orders of judicial authority. They further highlighted that the situation in Kashmir is urgent and disturbing from the perspective of a child’s wellbeing and that the reports indicate that the security forces in the state are not only violation of specific laws concerning children but also the constitutional principles and the International Child rights.
In the previous hearing on September 16, 2019, while responding to petitions that claimed that the J&K High Court was inaccessible, CJI Ranjan Gogoi had stated that he will himself visit Srinagar if the situation is indeed as dire as it is being suggested.
The CJI was responding to claims made by the counsels of news editor Anuradha Bhasin and two child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Professor Shanta Sinha. The lawyers of the petitions had claimed that internet and public transport was not working in Jammu and Kashmir due to the lockdown imposed in the state and hence it was difficult for people of the state to approach the J&K High Court.
The lawyers were responding to the bench when it enquired about the reason they were petitioning before the Supreme Court directly and not before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
The apex court then sought a report from the Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on the statement made by the petitioners’ lawyers. However, the report filed by the Chief Justice of the High Court did not support the lawyers’ statement, as it denied that there were any hurdles in accessing the J&K High Court.
CJI Ranjan Gogoi observed that there were conflicting reports on the situation and since the issue is about the alleged illegal detention of children, the apex court will ask J&K’s Juvenile Justice Committee to inquire on the matter.