SC asks High Court panel to probe allegations of illegal detention of children in J&K

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Three-judge Supreme Court Bench says it will not make any comments on charges for now

The Supreme Court on Friday assigned the Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s Juvenile Justice Committee to inquire into allegations of illegal detention of children — some as young as 10 — by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, which is undergoing a period of lockdown following the reading down of Article 370.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would not make any comments on the allegations for now.

However, the court said the petition filed by child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha raised “substantial issues and alleged detention of children”. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta objected to the issuance of notice or mention in the order of “detention of children”, saying this would have huge and wide repercussions. However, the court did not concede to the request and maintained that the panel should initiate an inquiry into the allegations.

In the previous hearing, the court asked the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice to file a report on a statement made by the petitioners’ lawyer and senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi that it was next to impossible to access the High Court because of the lockdown.

The CJI said the report filed by the Chief Justice of High Court did not support Mr. Ahmadi’s statement.

“But we have conflicting reports too. However, since the issue is about the alleged detention of children, we will ask the HC’s Juvenile Justice Committee to inquire,” Chief Justice Gogoi observed.

The petition referred to the “illegal detention of children in Kashmir as reported in the media and seeking judicial intervention in the matter”.

The petition wanted the court to direct the government to file a status report and order the Juvenile Justice Committee to monitor incidents of detention. “With regard to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, there have been certain reports specific to children, which describe violations of very different kinds, ranging in seriousness from potential loss of life and liberty of the child to being emotionally and intellectually drawn into the conflict”.

It submitted that the reports were serious enough to merit judicial review of the situation and enforce and monitor certain immediate corrective action.

“The areas of concern as gleaned from reportage in mainstream newspapers are thus: the first pertains to illegal (if temporary) detention (and in some cases beatings) of young boys by security forces. The second concerns serious injuries and deaths of children, deliberate or accidental,” the petition said.

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