The Scourge of
And, how to fight it
Malika Sehrish Ishaque
Justice system for juvenile delinquents in Pakistan is too strong to ameliorate their criminal behaviours, ergo halting crime in the country. In order to address the issue of protecting the rights of juvenile offenders, juvenile justice system was introduced in Pakistan in the year 2000. Unfortunately, the system was full of loopholes and lacunae, and on 6 December 2004, a full bench of the Lahore High Court struck down the law declaring it “unconstitutional, unreasonable and impracticable” because it contained such “downright absurdities as to create havoc in the country’s criminal justice system.” Then after a 14-year hiatus, the national legislature passed a new law, Juvenile Justice System Act (JJSA) 2018, which got the presidential assent n 18 May 2018. However, the debate on its effectiveness and proper implementation is still on.
Earlier, juvenile offenders below the age of 18 were mistreated in Pakistani jails and detention centres. According to the reports of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in 2016, more than 338 children were languishing in juvenile jails of Sindh and Punjab. The children were maltreated through forced rape, coercion, heinous abuse and starvation by some adult criminals in jails. The report strongly confirms that such kind of inhuman treatment meted out to them will not help in rehabilitating the young delinquents.
The gruesome murder of an 8th grade student Zeeshan, by two of his fellows aged 13, raises serious questions. The cold-blooded murder happened in May 2018 in Dhok Kala Khan area of Rawalpindi. Teenagers named Nauman and Akash properly planned to murder their friend which including the killing as well as safe disposal of the dead body. The incident raises serious questions: how did the juveniles come across such heinous plan of killing? How did they muster up courage to execute this grisly act? How did they remain resilient enough to hide their crime? These questions are, definitely, not self-explanatory and require a thorough investigation. Moreover, among the main suspects in ‘Farishta Mohmand’ murder case one is juvenile of 16 years of age.
Juveniles and causes of their delinquency
Juvenile delinquents are usually the teenage offenders between the ages of 11 and 18. The inclination towards crime is not innate in them; rather, they learn or socialize it from their peers, elders, prevailing norms or society. Children studying in madrassas are vulnerable to paedophiles.
Aristotle rightly said; “The mother of revolution and crime is poverty.” Similarly, juveniles learn delinquent or abnormal behaviours as a result of parental loss, single parent, poor socialization, filthy environment, extreme poverty, no schooling or bad company. There is no denying the fact that tendency to commit crime or wrongdoing dwells in every human being. As Alexander Pope in his famous work “An Essay on Criticism’’ states “To err is human; to forgive, divine”. Today’s children are tomorrow’s youth. They are nation’s assets; so they should not fall prey to delinquents tendencies. There is a serious need to probe deeply into the social, psychological and moral factors responsible for juveniles’ abnormal behaviour. Notably, Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan ensures the protection of the rights of children. But these rights get undermined when children are not given their basic rights to food, health and education. The United Nations Security Council 2019 report claims that ‘22.8 million out-of-school children of aged 5-16, 44 percent of the world’s total and the second highest number worldwide, are in Pakistan.
Astonishingly, the American juvenile justice system is quite different from that of Pakistan. Their JSJ works with the coordination of federal, state, local and territorial jurisdictions for the sake of ‘correcting and rehabilitating’ minors. In contrast, Pakistan’s system has remained unsuccessful in providing safe environment to minor offenders.
Analysis on JJSA, 2018
The Juvenile Justice System Act of 2018 has introduced reasonable provision which were missing in Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000. Among the inevitable reforms, there are the facilitation of right of legal assistance, observation home, rehabilitation centres, and provision special female investigation officers for female juveniles, secure detention and separate trial of juveniles.
The new JJSA 2018 overwhelmingly assures the rehabilitation of minors’ ill behaviour through imparting to them productive moral doctrines, and through socialization. Moreover, it also stresses on the psychological examination and recovery of juveniles. The psychological treatment of juvenile wrongdoers has been practiced in developed nations since the 19th century.
Some examples to follow
In UK and USA, minor offenders were placed under coercive detention centres for reformation. During incarceration, they were battered, punished with heavy works and scourge. But the repercussions of such ill-treatments were not satisfactory. The inclination towards crime and wrong got multiplied among juvenile delinquents. After getting relief from prison, those delinquents would start committing ‘felonies’. In the light of unwanted ends, justice system in England and Wales comprised high level teams of probationary officers, child therapists and psychologists. Resultantly, the system ended with productive psychological examination of delinquents. The statistics from juvenile courts in England shows progressive growth in the reduction of juveniles’ misconduct up to 17 percent between 1920 and 2000.
What should we do?
The growing scourge of juvenile delinquency in Pakistan needs serious concerns of lawmaking bodies. The extant juvenile courts all over the Pakistan must be revamped. Besides redress, there is also a pressing need to construct more juvenile courts at district and tehsil levels. In these courts, probationary officers should be assigned, in coordination with psychologists and parents, to reform minors’ ill socialization. The structure and process of rehabilitation can be borrowed from developed nations. It is only to serve the best interests of our children. In addition, juveniles must be provided with sports and healthy physical activities in prisons. Such treatment will not only help to reconstruct their personality but will contribute equally to cloaking their inner vulnerabilities. They would become more self-expressive, confident and resilient. Organizing healthy debates and counselling sessions by probationary officers is, likewise, vital.
It is hoped that the Juvenile Justice Act of 2018 will not be equivocal like the one of 2000. The nation as a whole shall stand ‘one’ to work for the betterment of children. Efforts and laws shall be enforced to ensure no child is ‘out of school’. The measures will successfully end with the formation of ideal society. It is because “When the children are occupied, they are not juvenile delinquents. I believe that education is a capital investment”.
A Judge’s Role in Juvenile Delinquency
The role of a Judge in proceedings involving juveniles accused of criminal behaviour has drastically changed in recent years. The Judge has a unique role to play by using his or her authority and influence to turn those potential and actively delinquent children into productive citizens of our society. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, in its publication, Children and Families first: A Mandate for America’s Courts, describes the modern Juvenile Court’s Judge as having the following characteristics and roles: (1) They have to advocate for the needs of children and their families
(2) Being educated in and having an understanding of family dynamics and child development
(3) Being committed to principles of treatment, rehabilitation and family preservation as well as having a regard for community protection and accountability
(4) Assuming leadership in improving the administration of justice for children and families by, inter alia, taking an active role in the development of policies, laws, rules and standards by which these courts and allied agencies and systems function
(5) Exercising the authority which exists to order, enforce and review the delivery of specific services and treatment for children and families.