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Suo moto on detention of juvenile prisoners

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has issued notices to IG Prisons, Special Home Secretary and others in a suo moto petition, questioning the validity of detaining juvenile accused in Hyderabad jail.

The suo moto proceedings were initiated following submission of a list of 45 persons before the court – during the course of disciplinary proceedings against civil judge Hyderabad on May 6, 2006 – who were juveniles in terms of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance-2000 and were detained in jail for long time, some of them since 2001.

The then Chief Justice of SHC Sabihuddin Ahmed observed that the accused, mentioned in the list, seem to be detained without lawful authority and in an unlawful manner, adding that it was the duty of the court to satisfy itself with regard to the legality of such detention. He then converted the said list into a petition.

The court had observed that, under Sindh Judicial Children Act, if a person accused of an offence at the time of initiation of proceedings against him was less than 16 years, then he was required to be treated as a child and could not be detained in jail.

The same provision continues to remain applicable despite promulgation of JJSO, as, under the Ordinance, a person below the age of 18 at the time of commission of an offence is required to be treated as a child and detained in a borstal institution and granted certain protections under sections 3, 4, 5 and 10 of the Ordinance.

As the matter was taken up by SHC’s division bench comprising Justice Azizullah M Memon and Justice Khalid Ali Z Kazi, the court was informed by Sarwat Sultana, Special Assistant to MIT (member inspection team), that proper details and information had not been filed by the prison authorities as to whether the juvenile prisoners were being kept in prison properly during the pendency of their trial and whether separate proceedings were being considered and maintained by relevant place where they stand confined.

The court observed that the matter be placed during the summer vacations and directed the office to issue summons to IG Prisons, Special Home Secretary and others for the next hearing.

Earlier, IG Prisons submitted a report that as many as 20 juveniles accused of committing offence punishable with death had been in judicial custody in the province for more than one year.

Following the court direction, IG Prisons Yameen Khan filed a report after visiting jails in all districts of the province. He submitted that 173 juveniles were detained in 11 district prisons, while 302 juvenile prisoners were kept in “youthful offenders industrial schools” in Karachi and Hyderabad.

He said that 80 juveniles who were accused of committing offences punishable with life imprisonment had been in judicial custody for more than six months and they were being tried in relevant courts

The IG submitted that 190 juveniles were tried in courts in offences not punishable with death or life and they had been in judicial custody for more than four months, which was in violation of the JJSO. He, however, mentioned that there was no female juvenile detained in any prison of the province.

In the report, he pointed out that there was hardly any possibility of mixing up juveniles with male prisoners as their wards were separated although these were located in the same compound.

He also mentioned lack of remand home, probation officers, procedure of juvenile courts, legal assistance and up-gradation of jail rules and pleaded the court to pass appropriate order in this regard.
Source: The News