Activists Say 144 Children Detained Illegally In J&K; SC Asks Fresh Report From J&K High Court
The Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 5, asked the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a fresh report on the alleged detention of minors by the security forces in the region.
On October 1, the Juvenile Justice Committee (JJC) of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had submitted a report to the apex court admitting that “144 juveniles, including children aged 9 and 11, were arrested since August 5 after the abrogation of Article 370.”
The committee, however, asserted that no child was illegally detained in the valley. The petitioners were given time to file their response after October 1, and the matter was scheduled to be heard at length on the 16th, that month.
The petitioners then filed a reply on October 14 saying the JJC had ‘neither applied its mind nor did any judicial review’ and the case was heard on the 5th of November again.
The three-judge bench headed by NV Ramana was hearing the petition filed by child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who claimed that the children in J&K have been illegally detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA) after the abrogation of Article 370.
Citing media reports from Scroll.in, The Washington Post, Caravan, Quint and TRT World, the petition sought directions from the top court for the detained children and to provide compensation to their families.
The petitioners argued that the 52-page-long report filed by the committee merely reflects what the Director General of Police (DGP) had to say and does not address the issues stated in their plea.
The bench accepted Ganguly’s submissions that the JJC did not elaborately go into allegations of preventive detention of minors, and therefore it is better to send the case back for examining each individual case of detention.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing on behalf of the J&K government requested the bench to make his submissions next week since he had another matter in some other court. However, Justice BR Gavai denied his request and said, “Important matters cannot be delayed like this.”
Arguing for the petitioners, Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi said, “The Juvenile Justice Committee did not undertake the exercise as ordered by Supreme Court which was to submit a response on each of submissions made by the petitioner in Supreme Court.”
Responding to Huzefa Ahmadi’s argument, Justice NV Ramana told Attorney General KK Venugopal, “What we feel is the report of Juvenile Justice Committee does not indicate ‘application of mind’ with respect to facts stated in the affidavit.”
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta referring to the report by Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir High Court which had said that the High court is functioning normally, argued that the petition should not be kept pending before the SC anymore.
Justice BR Gavai asked the petitioners whether they would like the matter to be heard by the J&K High Court since it is functioning now. But stating that their petition was an Article 32 petition – which is a fundamental right – Advocate Ahmadi argued that the matter should be heard in the Supreme Court since it has already heard petitions of other persons on similar issues from Kashmir. “So why not this petition which affects the fundamental rights of children?”, he asked.
The case will now be heard on 3 December when the new report comes in.