Relatives of two detainees in the Valley have knocked on the doors of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court saying they are minors, one 16 and the other 14, and the court has ordered a probe in one and asked the government to reply in another.
The Srinagar wing of J&K High Court has ordered its own inquiry into a habeas corpus petition filed by a relative of a detainee who claims he is a 14-year-old boy and has been detained under the stringent Public Safety Act. The single bench of Justice Ali Mohammed Magrey has asked the Registrar to complete the inquiry within 10 days and ascertain the age of the detainee.
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Another single bench of Justice Sanjeev Kumar, hearing another habeas corpus petition, has ordered the government to file a counter affidavit in a PSA case where relatives have produced a school report card to claim that the detainee is 16 years of age and hence a minor. The government has been directed to file its reply before October 1.
Both the orders come when a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Rajan Gogoi, on September 20, directed the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Gita Mittal to file a report within seven days on the plea highlighting alleged detention of children. “…We direct the Juvenile Justice Committee of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir to undertake an exercise with regard to the facts states in the writ petition and revert to us within a week,” the SC bench had directed.
In the first case, the habeas corpus petition was filed by the brother-in-law of the detainee who while challenging the preventive detention under PSA — passed by Srinagar District Magistrate on August 10 — sought the shifting of the detainee to a juvenile observation home under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), Act.
Justice Magrey’s order for a probe comes after the government claimed that neither did the detainee’s parents — at the time of admission in school — produce a birth certificate nor did the school “bother” to procure the same from the municipality or the hospital.
The brother-in-law of the detainee furnished an affidavit mentioning the date of birth of the applicant-detenu as March 16, 2005. His school had issued a certificate with this date as well. But the court noted that the District Magistrate’s response indicates “many mutilations” in the school’s records.
Also, Justice Magrey observed that the certificate produced by the relatives “is neither the original document nor attested by any person, much less an authorized person, therefore, cannot be taken as conclusively establishing the date of birth of the applicant-detenu.”
The court has ordered that the Registrar’s enquiry take such evidence as may be necessary (but not an affidavit) to determine the age; complete it within 10 days and submit the report in sealed cover. It said that counsel for the parties should ensure full cooperation in the probe and the Registrar shall have all powers to summon the parties in terms of the High Court Rules and Civil Procedure Code.
Meanwhile, the second order passed by Justice Kumar, states, “Notice accepted by learned Sr. AAG. He shall file counter affidavit by next date of hearing. The issue raised by the petitioner in this petition whether the petitioner-detenu is a minor and, therefore, is required to be treated as Juvenile shall also be addressed in the counter /reply affidavit.”
“The petitioner has already placed on record the marks card which indicates date of birth of the detenu as 15.03.2003. District Magistrate concerned to look into this aspect specifically and revert to this Court on the next date of hearing,” the order states.