New Delhi: In its first significant intervention in the region since the recent clampdown, the Supreme Court has asked the Juvenile Justice Committee (JJC) of the Jammu and Kashmir high court to look into the allegations of illegal detention of children by security forces in the state – which has been under a lockdown for over a month following the Centre’s decision to read down Article 370 on August 5.
The court has asked the JJC to submit its report within a week.
On September 20, a three-judge bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi passed the order after hearing a petition filed by child rights activist Enakshi Ganguly and former chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Shanta Sinha. The plea sought judicial intervention following media reports about “illegal detention of children in Kashmir”. Some media reports had said that children detained in the state were as young as ten.
The petitioners had sought a court’s directive to the government to file a status report and order the JJC to oversee incidents of detention of children.
The bench said it would not yet make any comment on the allegations but added that it did raise “substantial issues and alleged detention of children”. Though solicitor general Tushar Mehta, as the Centre’s representative, reportedly objected to the court issuing a notice in this regard and mentioning the words “detention of children” in the order as it could have “huge and wide repercussions”, the court did not relent.
The government had claimed that only one juvenile was taken into custody and was handed over to the Juvenile Justice Board on realising his age.
In the previous hearing of the case, the petitioners’ lawyer, Huzefa Ahmadi had also alleged that the state high court had become inaccessible to common people since August 5, when the lockdown began. The bench then sought a report from the state high court chief justice in that regard.
On September 20, though the court didn’t reveal the contents of Chief Justice Gita Mittal’s report, it did say that it didn’t support Ahmadi’s statement in the court.
“But we have conflicting reports too. However, since the issue is about alleged detention of children, we will ask the HC’s Juvenile Justice Committee to inquire,” the CJI stated.
In a related case, the court also asked the Centre to respond within two weeks to a plea by a woman seeking the whereabouts of her husband, Mubeen Shah, a businessman, who has been missing since the lockdown.