by Wajahat Ali Malik
On May 18 2018, the President of Pakistan approved the Juvenile Justice System Act (JJSA) 2018, which was passed by the Parliament earlier this year. JJSA 2018 overcomes the shortcomings which were present in Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, and provides a much better system for criminal justice and social reintegration for juvenile offenders. The Act defines a child according to the definition of UNCRC as ‘a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years’.
JS Act 2018 classifies the criminal offences into following three different categories: 1) Minor, which means an offence for which maximum punishment under the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 is imprisonment for up to three years with or without fine. A juvenile is entitled to bail in minor offences, with or without surety bonds by Juvenile court. 2) Major, which means an offence for which punishment under the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 is imprisonment of more than three years and up to seven years with or without fine. Bail shall also be granted in major offences with or without surety bonds by juvenile court. 3)Heinous, which means an offence which is serious, brutal, or shocking to public morality and which is punishable under the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 with death or imprisonment for life or imprisonment for more than seven years with or without fine. A juvenile of less than sixteen years of age is entitled to bail in heinous offences, but a bail is on discretion of court if juvenile is more than sixteen years of age.
The JJSA 2018 is very different from JJSO 2000, and the following are some of its salient new features. 1) Right of legal assistance: every juvenile or child victim of an offence shall have the right of legal assistance at the expense of the State. A juvenile shall be informed about his right of legal assistance within 24 hours of taking him into custody.
2) Observation home: this means a place where a juvenile is kept temporarily after being apprehended by police as well as after obtaining remand from juvenile court or otherwise for conducting inquiry or investigation. Observation Homes shall be made separately from police stations.
3) Juvenile rehabilitation centres: this is a special kind of prison established exclusively for keeping juvenile offenders. The convicted juvenile, shall be confined to the premises till the completion of period of imprisonment or until they turn 18 years of age. Here convicts can receive an education as well as vocational or technical training for their development and includes certified institutions including women crises centres.
4) Determination of age mechanism: JJS Act 2018 makes it compulsory upon the ranking officer-in-charge, or the investigation officer, to make an enquiry to determine the age of any such alleged offender, who physically appears or claims to be a juvenile. Age shall be determined on basis of accused person’s birth certificate, educational certificates or any other pertinent documents. In absence of such documents, age of such accused person may be determined on the basis of a medical examination report by a medical officer.