Juvenile justice: ‘Laws are there but need to be implemented’

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Effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) 2000 and other related laws can be an effective tool in reducing the number of children in prisons, Sindh Judicial Academy Director General Justice (retd) Saleem Akhtar said on Saturday.
He was presiding over a consultation on the ‘State of Probation and Juvenile Justice in Sindh’ at a hotel.
The consultation was organised by the Sindh Judicial Academy, the Home Department and the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC). Sindh High Court Chief Justice Mushir Alam was the chief guest on the occasion whereas a number of judges of various districts of Sindh, representatives of police, Probation and Reclamation Department, Prisons Department, media and NGOs also participated in the consultation.
Justice (retd) Akhtar announced that Sindh Judicial Academy will provide training to the newly recruited probation and parole officers in order to equip them to effectively play their role in the criminal justice system for children.
Addressing the consultation, Sindh High Court Chief Justice Mushir Alam appreciated the Home Department’s step to appoint probation and parole officers. “We need to take all possible steps to ensure that children are sent to prisons as  a last resort including implementation of the national and provincial laws and constitutional provisions like Article 25-A,” the chief justice said.
“The judiciary is the custodian of the constitution and has to ensure fundamental rights to all and we are striving hard for that purpose.”
Speaking to the participants of the consultation, Nasir Aslam Zahid said that Sindh has some progressive laws on the subject and judiciary is well aware of them but the real issue is their proper implementation.
Earlier in his welcome address, SPARC Executive Director Arshad Mahmood said that the 22nd anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN General Assembly was recently observed.
“Pakistan is the first among Muslim countries and the sixth country in the world that signed and ratified the convention on November 12, 1990. Following the ratification of the UNCRC, the federal and provincial governments introduced various laws including the JJSO,” he added.
“According to Section 3 of the JJSO; every child who is accused of the commission of an offence or is a victim of an offence shall have the right of legal assistance at the expense of the State, however, regrettably very few children have been provided legal assistance at states expense because of no budgetary allocation for the purpose.”
Requesting the Sindh High Court chief justice to direct the authorities concerned to make budgetary allocation in this regard and establish exclusive juvenile courts in Sukkur, Hyderabad and Karachi, he also urged the provincial government to appoint probation officers in each district of the province and at least one female probation officer in former divisional headquarters that will be helpful in substantially reducing the number of women and juvenile prisoners in the province.
Justice Sajjad Ali Shah of the Sindh High Court while speaking on the occasion said that most of the children in prisons are from the poor segments of the society and we should take steps to ensure prevention of children entering into criminal justice system. He also said that Justice Amir Hani Muslim of the high court has taken steps to shift the remand home and also preparing rules for it.
Sindh Police DIG Abdul Khaliq Shaikh and District and Sessions Judge Hyderabad Fahim Ahmad Siddiqi informed the participants of the role of police in the criminal justice system for children and various legal aspects related to probation and juvenile offenders.
Sindh IG Prisons Ghulam Qadir Thebo and Special Home Secretary Zahid Memon briefed the participants about the state of prisons and the steps taken by the Home Department for improving prison conditions for juveniles.
At the end of the consultation, recommendations were made for improving the probation and juvenile justice system in the province and it was agreed that proper steps will be taken for the implementation of the recommendations.