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July 31, 2020

Child courts disposing of cases in short span

Peshawar

July 31, 2020

PESHAWAR: Child Courts, established in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in March 2019, have shown performance by disposing of dozens of cases in a short span.

According to information provided by protocol officer of Peshawar High Court, the incumbent Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court Waqar Ahmed Seth established the first-ever specific child court in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on March 16, 2019, under the double jurisdiction of KP Child Protection and Welfare Act (KPCPWA) and the Juvenile Justice System Act (JJSA).

This achievement was followed by a decision from the National Judicial Policy (Making) Committee to establish pilot child courts in each provincial capital in the first place, and then in each district of all provinces of Pakistan. The decision gave birth to country-wide efforts to establish pilot child courts to enforce the JJSA and relevant child protection laws.

Protocol Officer Zubair Hussain said that in October 2019, two additional pilot child courts were established in Mardan and Abbottabad. In alignment with the JJSA, the KP High Court and the Khyber Pakhutnkhwa government notified seven Juvenile Justice Committees (JJCs) in Mardan, Chitral, Peshawar, Haripur, Abbottabad, Bajaur, and Mohmand districts. The latest data from March 2016 to June 2020 on pilot child courts’ performance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been released by the Peshawar High Court and is highly encouraging. Out of six pilot child courts established in Pakistan to date, three are located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The fourth one is about to be inaugurated in Ghallanai, Mohmand district, after Eidul Azha.

Out of eight juvenile justice committees established in Pakistan, 7 are located in KP and the only operational one so far is in Peshawar. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, 4 boys in conflict with the law availed diversion, which is a form of rehabilitation contributing to keeping away children from detention as much as possible and reform them into positive citizens. The national average rate of case disposal for those pilot child courts is 43 per cent , while in KP, the average rate is 45 per cent, with Peshawar court reaching an average rate of 53.5 per cent followed by Mardan 44.5 per cent and Abbottabad 36 per cent. The average time to dispose of a case in KP in those pilot child courts is 99 days, while the national average rate for those courts is 128 days.

On average, cases remain active for 130 days in those pilot child courts while in KP, the cases remain active for 132 days on average on those courts.

The judges concerned explained that this average time case had been impacted by the closure of the courts due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So far 1125 children (89 per cent boys and 11 per cent girls) in conflict and in contact with the law have benefited from child-sensitive justice services in the child courts piloted in KP. Out of those children accessing child-sensitive justice services, 512 were children (82 per cent boys, 18 per cent girls) in conflict with the law; out of those 512, 422 were granted bail (99 per cent boys, 1 per cent girls), 55 were acquitted (100 per cent boys), 411 appeared as witnesses (88 per cent boys, 12 per cent girls) and 202 as victims (79 per cent boys, 21 per cent girls).

Overall, one boy and one girl accused have been convicted in alignment with JJSA and 12 adults (11 men, 1 woman) were convicted in cases of child abuse pertaining to rape, murder, child sexual abuse, unnatural offence and kidnapping. The victims, lawyers and guardians, interviewed after experimenting services from those child courts, expressed satisfaction with the pilot courts’ performance. The courts are equipped with toys, with video links and have separate entrances so that the child victim never has to directly face his/her abuser, to avoid further trauma. The registrar of PHC, Khwaja Wajjiuddin, indicated that it was just a beginning. In order to ensure child-sensitive dispensation of justice in the context of Covid-19, seven virtual child courts will be established at a divisional level with specially trained and appointed judicial teams. Eventually, there will be one specific child court in each district of the province, he added.