Call to implement the Juvenile Justice Act 2018

LAHORE: A 2018 Juvenile Justice System Act (JJSA) awareness training workshop was organized by Legal Awareness Watch (LAW) in the provincial capital here on Saturday.

All stakeholders, including members of civil society, juvenile court officials and journalists, participated in the sensitization workshop. They called on the government to implement the Juvenile Justice Act 2018 in its true spirit.

A lawyer Sarmad Ali, LAW Director, said that according to the law, juvenile courts will be established in the country and we are still waiting for the establishment of the juvenile courts. He shared that if a child commits a crime, they should not be kept at the police station, but rather transferred to a rehabilitation center. The child would not be labeled a criminal but rather an aggressor. The police did not handcuff him. He would not be tried in the courts where adults are tried, Sarmad Ali said.

On the occasion, representatives of the Marvi Rural Development Organization (MRDO) declared that Pakistan is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). “Pakistan is one of 12 countries in the world that may impose the death penalty or life imprisonment on minors. He shared that Article 37 of the CRC requires States parties to ensure that “neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without the possibility of release shall be imposed for offenses committed by persons under the age of ten -eight years”.

He further stated that granting life imprisonment to minors is also contrary to Article 25(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, which reiterates the obligation to safeguard and protect the rights of children.

He said the law proposed the establishment of exclusive juvenile courts, observation homes and rehabilitation centers but nothing had been done so far in terms of implementation in Sindh and Punjab. also.

He further shared with the participants the research study conducted by MRDO and LAW on prison conditions in Pakistan, which highlighted some glaring shortcomings in the law.

According to the report, underage prisoners are often held with adults where children are exposed to abuse, violence and hardened criminals.

Sarmad Ali said at least 1,225 minors are being held in different prisons and are waiting for justice. In 2018, Pakistan enacted the Juvenile Justice System Act 2018 (JJSA) and its predecessor, the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) 2000 was thus repealed. The Juvenile Justice Act 2018 states that a juvenile offender under the age of 16 is entitled to bail for heinous offences, but bail is at the discretion of the court if the juvenile is over sixteen years old.

He further stated that he believed the police were knowingly violating due process protocols. “Most of the time, the police are influenced by the complainant. Sometimes, in cases of crimes against the state, police investigators violate the record just to avoid all the set legal process.

They intentionally try to avoid mentioning the age or declaring the offender as a minor on the Saza slip,” he shares.