The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak boy strays into lock-up

Jaipur, Aug. 4: Muneer, 13, from Pakistan stepped into India and got a treatment quite unlike that reserved for young Noor Fatima and Khalid Junaid.

Unlike the other Pakistani children who came for medical treatment, Muneer had strayed into India though he had set out for his maternal uncle’s home in a village near his, around 20 km from the border inside Pakistan.

Son of cowherd Mohammed Bilal of Bhatu village in Sindh province, Muneer walked into the Border Security Force on June 26 after straying across the border.

The force handed him over to Kesrisinghpur police of Rajasthan’s Shri Ganganagar district the next day.

He was kept at the police station, 40 km from the district headquarters, on June 27 and 28. A case of vagrancy was registered, under Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code, on June 29.

The law, however, does not allow detention of minor children in jail though the passport act does provide for registration of a case against a person who crosses the border without legal documents.

While the police did not file a case against Muneer for the first two days, they did make an entry in the roznamcha (daily diary) before putting him in the station lock-up.

Once the case was registered, Muneer was produced the same day before the Shri Karanpur sub-divisional magistrate.

The magistrate ordered his release on bail. But freedom still eluded Muneer for there was no one to put up the money for him. The magistrate then sent him to the sub-jail with effect from July 31.

Protests by human rights activists on August 1 prompted the jailer of the sub-jail to seek the magistrate’s permission to send Muneer to a children’s rehabilitation centre.

The boy was handed over to Kesrisinghpur police to escort him to the centre in Bikaner.

Taking up the cudgels for the Pakistani minor, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties demanded his immediate release and safe repatriation at the earliest.

Crying “unjust detention” of Muneer, the union alleged that the state had violated the Juvenile Justice Act by keeping the minor in police custody.

They said as a 13-year-old, Muneer was entitled to special protection under domestic and international law. The juvenile justice system, the union alleged, had suffered a complete breakdown in this instance.

The union cited Muneer’s month-long incarceration in police lock-up as an instance of violation of the prevailing juvenile legislation.

And since June 26, when the BSF took Muneer into custody, he was not produced before a juvenile justice board, which is mandatory under the juvenile justice act, the union said.

Earlier, the organisation had moved the Jaipur bench of Rajasthan High Court. Justices Yaad Ram Meena and Shashi Kant Sharma heard its plea on July 28 and issued notice to the Rajasthan government demanding an explanation within four weeks.

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