Khudayar Mohla –
Country’s top judicial policy making committee under the chair of Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on Monday is likely to deliberate on a number of agenda items including establishment of special courts for gender based violence cases against women and children across the country.
It is worth mentioning that federal and provincial governments failed to establish Juvenile Justice Committee (JCC) for children rights protection at district level for over eight months since inception of Juvenile Justice System Act (JJSA), 2018 so the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee (NJPMC) meeting may ascertain reasons behind delay to meet the ends of justice in the matter.
Pakistan being a state party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is supposed to take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures. Under the CRC Pakistan shall establish Child Courts and adopt special procedures keeping view the best interest of the child is well in line with the best practices for child protection.
Under provisions of JJSA, 2018, enacted in May 24, 2018, it was principally decided that on commencement of the Act but not later than three months, the government in consultation with the concerned Sessions Judge shall establish a JJC for each sessions division.
Act provides that the JJC shall consist of four members, including a judicial magistrate with the powers under section 30 of the Code of Criminal Procedure; district public prosecutor; member of local bar having at least seven years experience appointed by the sessions judge for two years; and, a probation officer or social welfare officer not below the rank of BPS-17.
The Act also provides an alternative process of determining the responsibility and treatment of a juvenile on the basis of their social, cultural, economic, psychological and educational background, without resorting to formal judicial proceedings whereas the JJC has mandate to dispose of cases through diversion within a period of one month from the date of the referral.
While talking to this correspondent, child rights expert Sharafat Ali Chaudhry who also had drafted the JJSA, said that obligation under international law requires specialized procedures for dealing with children either they come in conflict with law as child accused or in contact with law as child victims or child witnesses.
Sharafat expressed that special child courts are required under JJSA 2018 saying cases triable under federal laws involving child protection issue may also be referred to the child courts, as per international obligations of Pakistan and in line with the global best practices to protect children.
He was of the view that under the provisions of JJSA 2018, government in consultation with the concerned high courts shall establish juvenile court and notify JJCs in each district within three months of the commencement of the Act.
“It has been nearly a year since this Act was passed by still establishment of such courts and juvenile justice committee seems a far cry”, said Sharafat A. Chaudhry.
Chaudhry further said that juvenile court with its rehabilitative mission, would be more flexible and informal than the ordinary criminal court, adding that concept of child court is wider than a juvenile court.
Chaudhry told that special child courts are also required under various provincial legislations saying a child court may have multiple jurisdictions like having powers of Juvenile Court under the federal law and a Child Protection Court under provincial laws.
It is notable that provincial high courts of Punjab and KPK have established model child courts in their jurisdictions whereas there is strong possibility that top court is planning to establish such court at district level throughout Pakistan.
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