Mar 9, 2009

Sentencing of juveniles: trial courts violate law

A civil society organisation has requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to take notice of ‘violation’ of law by trial courts in sentencing juvenile offenders to rigorous imprisonment.
The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) states that the trial courts had been ‘violating’ Section-12 of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) which prohibited sentence of rigorous imprisonment to juvenile offenders.
In a letter to Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, the Sparc states that under the Section-12, ‘no child shall be ordered to labour and given any corporal punishment during the time spent in custody or any borstal or such other institution.’
As opposed to this, trail courts all over the country ‘continue’ to sentence children with rigorous imprisonment without taking into account the guarantees given under the ordinance, National Programme Manager Sparc Rafiq Khan says in the letter.
According to a press release, issued here on Sunday, Mr Khan states that in one of the cases while hearing an appeal of two juveniles, Mohammad Noman (15) and Mohammad Lateef (15), against a decision of a trial court, the Federal Shariat Court’s chief justice had taken serious notice of it and observed, ‘the conviction and sentences of the appellants tantamount to throwing them away in a prison for adults with rigorous imprisonment in violation of Section-12 of Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, which states that no child should be given corporal punishment at any time while in custody.’
He states that over 80 juveniles, convicted under various offences, have been languishing in jails in NWFP, Punjab and Sindh.
According to lists obtained from the offices of the inspector of prisons, children are being sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. ‘In addition to the juveniles confined in Punjab, Sindh and NWFP, we are not certain about type of punishment handed down to 17 convicted juveniles in Balochistan,’ he states.
He stated that the government introduced the JJSO on July 1, 2000 to provide for protection of children involved in criminal litigation, their rehabilitation in society and reorganisation of juvenile courts. By 2002, all provincial governments and Islamabad Capital Territory had notified rules to carry out the purposes of the ordinance.
However, it is sad to note that even after nine years, the ordinance is being subverted in one way or the other. There exist no exclusive juvenile courts or borstal institutions for hearing the cases and rehabilitation of the juveniles in the country.
He states that the Punjab government set up two borstal institutions in Bahawalpur and Faisalabad but they are not being run by taking into account the provisions of the Punjab Borstal Act 1926 or the Reformatory Schools Act 1897. Similarly, Sindh Borstal Schools Act 1955 is not followed while managing the affairs at two Youthful Offenders Industrial Schools located in Karachi and Hyderabad.
Since the matter is related to the infringement of rights and in gross violation of the provisions of law, he demands direct intervention on the part of this august court like many other occasions when the intervention proved fruitful in realisation of the rights and in fulfilling the requirements of law.
He requested the chief justice to look into the issue to set standard guidelines for all concerned dealing with juveniles.

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