KHAIRPUR: Marvi Rural Development Organization (MRDO) has called on decision-making bodies to implement the Juvenile Justice Act 2018 in its letter and spirit, which was introduced for providing a separate and effective criminal justice mechanism for children in conflict with the law.

It was promulgated after the Universal Periodic Review on Pakistan in 2017 which repealed the ordinance of 2000 to provide a better system for children who allegedly infringed any penal provision.

People from all walks of life and media personnel told children across Pakistan should not be housed in police stations nor in in ordinary prisons regulated under Pakistan Prison Rules 1978, but instead in observation homes during the investigation period and rehabilitation centers under the law to rehabilitate them to bring them to normal life, said MRDO representatives.

Furthermore, Saira Ahmed Manager Programs- MRDO added that the concerned authorities with no further delay should notify rules of business under section 24 of the Act 2018 for implementing it in its letter and spirit. Due to this failure juvenile justice committees across Pakistan have not been made functional for resolving minor and major nature penal violations under section 10.

Advocate Bashir Ahmed, Chairman Juvenile Justice Committee- Khairpur Bar Association said having functional juvenile justice committees across Pakistan would discharge the courts from the burden of pendency of cases and allow restorative justice to flourish in the country through diversion from the ordinary penal sanctions, he added. In addition, the provincial decision-making corners under the Act 2018 should establish funds for providing free legal services to children brought to justice system.

No attempt to date has been made at the federal nor provincial levels to ensure non-disclosure of the identity of the children who come in conflict with the law. The Act 2018 demands the identity of the children who come in violation of the penal law to be protected at all levels, even the media reporters, police, and courts must follow this stipulation of the law, he added.

It was highlighted that age determination procedure in Pakistan should be done through scientific method in case of no documentary evidence i.e., ossification test to determine the actual age of the person apprehended by the police to fulfill the purpose of the of the Act 2018 in its letter and spirit. Moreover, it was told to the audience that the probation officers running in Pakistan must be provided necessary skills to handle cases of children particularly when involving serious acts.

The communication between the law enforcing agency i.e., police, probation officers and prosecution as demanded under Act 2018 should be promoted positively and considered proactively by stakeholders to safeguard the best interests of the children who come in conflict with the penal law.