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SC seeks fresh report on J&K child arrests

The committee had told the court that 144 children had been detained in Jammu and Kashmir
Supreme Court of India

Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 05.11.19, 09:21 PM

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the juvenile justice committee of Jammu and Kashmir High Court to again verify allegations of illegal detentions of hundreds of children as the earlier report of the panel giving a clean chit to the government had merely relied on police information.

A bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy and Bhushan Gavai asked the committee to submit its fresh report “as expeditiously as possible” and posted the matter for further hearing to December 3.

The committee had in an earlier report on October 1 told the court that 144 children had been detained in Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre on August 5 cancelled the erstwhile state’s special status, but 142 of them had been released.

The committee has Jammu and Kashmir High Court judge Mohammad Magrey as chairman and three other judges of the court — Justices Dhiraj Singh Thakur, Sanjeev Kumar and Rashid Ali Dhar — as members.

“The state machinery has been constantly upholding the rule of law and not a single juvenile in conflict with law has been illegally detained,” the committee had stated in its report.

The court had directed the committee to submit the report by checking the veracity of the petition filed by child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanti Sinha alleging large-scale violation of child rights by the security agencies and their illegal detention in the aftermath of the scrapping of Article 370.

On Tuesday when the matter came up for consideration, the bench agreed with

the submission of senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the petitioners, that the committee had merely submitted to the court a report prepared by the state police without conducting any independent inquiry into the allegations.

Ahmadi pointed out that although preventive detention is barred under both the CrPC and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, the juveniles were detained by the state police in the wake of the crackdown following the August 5 decisions.

The Supreme Court brushed aside the arguments of solicitor-general Tushar Mehta that the report submitted by the four judges’ committee cannot be challenged through an appeal by the petitioners.

Mehta had argued that the petitioners had earlier made a false statement that Jammu and Kashmir High Court was not functioning and that the committee’s findings could be challenged in the Supreme Court.

Justice Ramana pointed out that another bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had sought the committee’s report on the alleged illegal detentions and so propriety demands that the issue be heard by the apex court itself. Mehta then dropped his opposition.

The court also rejected Mehta’s plea for adjournment on the ground that his presence was needed in other courts.

“We can’t agree. It has been now three months since the lockdown. We cannot delay hearing such important matters,” Justice Ramana, heading the bench, observed.

However, Ahmadi was forced by the bench to withdraw his remark that the committee “had abdicated” it duty while preparing the report.

Justice Ramana said: “We feel the report of the committee does not indicate application of mind with respect to the facts stated in the affidavit.”

The bench also briefly heard the arguments of advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin, alleging restrictions on the Internet, mobile connectivity and other communications.

“Even today there are no data or Internet services in the (erstwhile) state,” Grover told the bench, adding that the curbs had crippled the media.

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