Engaging untrained and unskilled prosecutors in Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) has resulted in a severe setback to the state in its efforts to protect child rights through its judicial system.
With 30 Juvenile Justice Boards in as many districts, Karnataka has only 3 to 4 prosecutors trained under the Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children) 2000. Lack of trained prosecutors is hampering the speedy disposal of the cases.
The JJBs across the state have more than 5,000 cases pending at various levels. Sources in the Law and Parliamentary Affairs department revealed to DH that JJBs comprise Chief Judicial Magistrate, an advocate who has been practising in the relevant field, and a social worker.
“Currently, in several JJBs, senior assistant public prosecutors or assistant public prosecutors are representing the state in the cases in the absence of trained prosecutors,” an official revealed. However, in a recent judgement by the Madras High Court, the court had ordered, “No assistant public prosecutor (APP) can be appointed under Section 25 of CrPC for conducting the prosecution before the JJB as it is higher than a court of the magistrate.”
Pointing out at the criterion for the appointment of prosecuting officers, in the absence of guidelines in the Act, the court stated, “The prosecuting officer before the JJB should be a special public prosecutor to be appointed under Section 24(8) of CrPC. The state government to appoint for the purposes of any case or class of cases, a person who has been in practice as an advocate for not less than ten years as a special public prosecutor, besides with knowledge or skill in child psychology or child welfare.”
But in Karnataka, the regular prosecutors or APPs, with no proper training or experience, are conducting prosecution before the JJBs.
Acknowledging the problem JC Madhuswamy, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs told DH, “I am well aware of the appaling status of implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act in the state. I agree that we have been facing a severe shortage of experts at these boards. We will ensure that only skilled and well-learned prosecutors are appointed to these boards,” the minister said.
Brinda Adige, noted Child Rights activist said, “What is the need of the hour is that the government should engage the prosecutors who have been trained under the Juvenile Justice Act because it is the right of the child to be treated in a manner under the circumstances. Many of the prosecutors lack proper training and are also deprived of minimum facilities by the state government."