April 7, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed
The Lahore High Court has held that a juvenile offender should be released on bail if their trial does not conclude within six months of their arrest provided that any delay that extends the trial beyond that period is not attributable to them. The court also held that the time spent by the accused in order to attain a declaration of their juvenility cannot be counted to their disadvantage.
The judgment was delivered by Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh on a February 11 bail petition of an accused who had been detained in connection to a murder since July 2019. At the time of the incident, the accused was 17 years old and therefore a juvenile. The court accepted the plea on account of the fact that the accused’s trial did not commence in the 18 months he had spent in detention.
The judgment, which only recently became available, stated that Pakistan had enacted the Juvenile Justice Systems Act 2018 with a special focus on disposing cases of juvenile offenders through diversion and social reintegration.
“It also shares the thought of the international community that ‘children should be detained when absolutely necessary and for the shortest period of time possible’,” the verdict reads.
The court also observed that since Pakistan is signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the state must play its determined role to minimize the use of detention and ill-treatment meted out to juvenile inmates.
The judge outlines a set of directions to different authorities including the police, district judiciary and prosecution for a summary conclusion of trials involving juvenile offenders, which are as follows:
- The Inspector General of Police, Punjab, shall ensure that all cases involving juveniles are processed swiftly in accordance with law and the challan is submitted within 14 days. If it is not possible to submit final challan, at least interim challan in terms of the proviso to section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) shall be submitted.
- The Prosecutor General Punjab shall ensure that no delay in meeting the aforementioned timeline is occasioned by the Prosecution Department.
- The Inspector General of Police and the Prosecutor General shall immediately nominate designated officers who shall monitor submission of challans in cases involving juveniles on monthly basis. Disciplinary action shall be taken against those responsible for causing delay.
- Henceforth juvenile cases shall be on the agenda of every meeting of the Criminal Justice Coordination Committees constituted under Chapter XI of the Police Order, 2002. The said committees shall review the progress of the said cases and issue such directions and take such steps as may be necessary for implementation of this order.
- All the trial courts shall decide the cases involving juveniles expeditiously. They shall proceed with them on day-to-day basis and would not grant unnecessary adjournments. In any event, every trial must be concluded within six months. Compliance report shall be submitted to this Court in every case through the Deputy Registrar (Judicial) concerned.
According to data available to Voicepk.net, over 670 juvenile prisoners including seven girls are imprisoned in 42 jails of Punjab as of January 1, 2021. Of these, 587 inmates are under trial, including all seven underage female prisoners. Around 84 inmates, who have been convicted by different courts are serving their sentences in Punjab. No juvenile is on a death row in the province.
According to the data, 105 children inmates are booked in murder charges, 111 are being tried under section 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code (unnatural offences of carnal nature) and 71 have been imprisoned for theft.