- Under-18 offenders suffer as criminal law for juveniles still unimplemented 13 years after its enactment
- Punjab Prison spokesman says providing for courts, transportation for underage offenders not their job
It has been around 13 years that Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) 2000, originally enacted in 2001, is awaiting implementation as underage law offenders are continuing to be treated like grown up criminals against the provisions of this law.
Pakistan ratified United Nations (UN) Conventions on the Rights of Child (CRC) in 1990 and the government of Pakistan promulgated JJSO 2000 to enable law offenders under the age of 18 to enjoy special treatment in the eyes of law, which is different from the one which is received by adult criminals, so as to give them a chance to go back to normal life without languishing under gruesome conditions of adult prisons in the country.
The facts of the matter however suggest that the ordinance is the books only while juveniles are being booked as adults.
Moreover, Pakistan Today has learnt that Section 3(1) of the JJSO requires government to provide free legal assistance to juvenile offenders, however not a single child has been bestowed with this facility till date.
Also, Section 4(1) of JJSO binds federal and provincial governments to establish a juvenile court in each district, however no such court has been established anywhere across the country. Provincial governments have tasked existing civil or family courts to hear the cases of juvenile offenders.
It has been further learnt from the Prison Authorities in Lahore and Karachi that juveniles are transported to the courts in the same prison vans in which other criminals are transported in sheer violation of JJSO.
NOT OUR JOB:
Commenting on the issue, a spokesman for Punjab Prisons told Pakistan Today that his department was doing its best to implement the provisions of JJSO 2000 and they were keeping juveniles separate from the hardened criminals in all jails of Punjab. He further said that there were two borstal institutes and juvenile jails in Punjab where only underage offenders were being kept.
The spokesman conceded that many of the provisions of JJSO 2000 have not been implemented so far but he claimed that the establishment of exclusive juvenile courts and transportation of juveniles to the courts did not come under the Prisons Department’s jurisdiction.
OH, COME ON:
However, Sajjad Cheema, who works for a child rights advocacy organization, refuted prison authorities’ claim of having established two borstal institutes. He said that a jail run by prison administration under regular jail manual could not be termed as borstal institute.
Cheema lamented the treatment being served to juveniles by different arms of Criminal Justice System across the country and called for an immediate implementation of JJSO 2000 in its letter and spirit. He also pointed out that a petition regarding the status of JJSO 2000 has been pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan since 2005 which was filed after JJSO 2000 was annulled by Lahore High Court in 2004. However, the Supreme Court has allowed the implementation of the law until its final judgment.