The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has approved the much-awaited Juvenile Justice System Rules 2023 to make the 2018 juvenile law fully operational for benefitting child offenders.
The rules, prepared by the provincial home and tribal affairs department, include detail provisions about different important aspects of the Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018.
An official said that the provincial caretaker cabinet gave approval to the rules in its meeting on Wednesday night. The rules would be notified after minutes of the meeting were released.
In the rules several definitions given in the law have been mentioned including “best interest of the child”, “juvenile”, “juvenile rehabilitation centres”, “juvenile observation home” and “juvenile justice committee,” etc. The term ‘diversion’ has also been defined in the rules as an alternative to ‘judicial proceedings and punishment for juveniles’.
“Diversion” is defined as an alternative process of determining the responsibility and treatment of a juvenile on the basis of his social, cultural, economic, psychological and educational background without resorting to formal judicial proceedings.
The official said that operationalising the juvenile justice system would be akin to concurring to ‘our international commitments’.
The rules provide that one juvenile rehabilitation centre and one observation home would be maintained at the divisional headquarters level by the department with reasonable accommodation such as bedding, toilets, bathrooms, clothing cleanliness and sanitation for the juvenile offenders.
The inspector general of prisons will be responsible for the internal security whereas the external security will be looked after by the district police. Similarly, separate juvenile rehabilitation centre and observation home for female juvenile offenders will be established.
Moreover, the juvenile offender, upon attaining the age of 18 years, will immediately be shifted to the prison of his home district.
Currently, two juvenile rehabilitation centres stand approved in Annual Development Programme (ADP), one in Bannu and another in Haripur, whereas other schemes have also been approved by Provincial Development Working Party (PDWP) with administrative approvals issued.
The official said that the home department would try its level best to get those schemes completed early and also get schemes of other divisional headquarters approved.
The approved rules have several important provisions including providing legal practitioner to a child victim of the offence; provision of appropriate arrangements for the juvenile offenders in the court like elevated chairs, virtual proceedings, among others; prevention of harsh questioning; provision of information to the juvenile in the simplest language; and provisions with regards to the determination of age through medical examination if no official document is available.
Moreover, the benefit of doubt will be given to the offender. The rules have also provisions with regards to the factors determining diversion and diversion proceedings and different diversion programmes namely: psychological support of the juvenile offender and his family; attendance in trainings, seminars and lectures; anger management skills; problem solving and conflict resolution skills, among others.
The functions of the juvenile justice committee have also been explained in the rules including recommending to the department, mandatory educational and training programmes for juvenile offenders kept in the rehabilitation centres or observation homes; and recommending to the department for issuance of or withdrawal of certification of any juvenile rehabilitation centre or observation home under the law.
Acknowledgement: Published in Daily Dawn on August 11th, 2023