Juvenile Justice System in Pakistan

Maroof Sani

Citizens have the right to have their liberty and security respected under Article 9 of the constitution.  All the state institutions, whether the police department, the civil administration, or the judiciary, have a duty to respect these citizen rights and to ensure that they are not violated for any reason. In this regard, the police play an especially important role. This article explores the pervasive use of power by the police over juveniles under custody and how, when law enforcement agents exploits the power rendered to them by law, raises serious concerns regarding the violation of human rights.

Justice system for juvenile offenders

The Pakistani child justice system does not fully protect the human rights of child offenders, and the best practices in this area that are observed elsewhere are not observed in Pakistan. Although Pakistan has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and in accordance with these treaties, Pakistan has implemented legislation to protect the human rights of Juvenile offenders participating in the child justice system, with the goal of restoring and reconciling them into society.[1] However, in Pakistan the criminal justice administration has yet to eliminate dishonesty in reporting and registering crimes (including false charges to settle personal vendettas) via false First Information Reports (FIRs); influencing, pressuring or trying to coerce force on victim/survivors of crimes, whether adults or children. [2]  

The statistics on Juvenile detention centers and real number of detained individuals are grossly skewed. In their publication “The State of Pakistan’s Children”, the society for the protection of the rights of child (SPARC) reported on about 1500-2000 child offenders in Pakistani jails. However, in March 2021, this figure was estimated to be somewhat higher than 1300. According to the same news report ‘ninety percent of these perpetrators are just awaiting trial’. As of April 2021, there were 540 minors in Punjab prison including teenage girls, with over 464 awaiting trial. Sindh has around 260 minors imprisoned, KPK has 510, and Balochistan has around 55.[3]

As the Juvenile Justice Ordinance 2000 (JJSO 2000), miserably failed in safeguarding child delinquents because juvenile offenders were directed to serve barbaric and mediaeval time punishments, as in the case of Sher Ali 2001. Furthermore, Mohmmad Nadeem was sentenced to 273 years’ imprisonment by an additional session’s court in Lahore in 2000.[4]  Therefore the sluggish implementation of JJSO 2000 resulted in massive and irreversible losses to the entire concept of building a Juvenile Justice System, as many children were subjected to cruel penalties. In 2018, Juvenile Justice System Act 2018 (JJSA 2018) was passed by parliament, repealing the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 (JJSO 2000).  It is an improvement in the legislation, intending to enable the state to establish particular measures for the legal protection of child offenders, as indicated in Articles 23 and 25 of the JJSA 2018, and also to guarantee that the new law supersedes prior opposing or conflicting laws, which the JJSO 2000 did not achieve.[5]

Despite the Juvenile Justice System Act 2018 (JJSA 2018)  being in effect, minors have recently suffered discrimination and violence at police station and behind prison walls across Pakistan. Besides police custodial; deaths, JJSA 2018 has raised some other significant questions. JJSA 2018 stipulated that a kid arrested for breaking the law or being found guilty of an offence should be kept in an observation home rather than at police station. Moreover, the arrest of the child by the police should be communicated to the child’s parents or guardians, as well as the relevant probation officer. [6]  The Priyantha case can be seen as significant example for working of juvenile justice system in Pakistan. In this case, the court issued two independent judgement; one for non-juveniles and one for juveniles (as nine accused were juveniles). The separation was made in accordance with juvenile justice system Act of 2108. By ascertaining the ages of the accused at the time of inquiry, the police worked quite professionally in the case. In conjunction with prosecutors, police leadership and the main investigative report (under S.173 of the code of Code of Criminal procedure 1898) to the extent of minors. As a result, the court held separate trials for the accused and convicted them in accordance with JJSA2018. [7]

Despite Pakistan’s acceptance of the convention against torture in 2010, there is no clear law in Pakistan that criminalizes torture. Child offenders are frequently victims of torture, custodial death, and rape during police investigations and detention in jails. The unfortunate incident in Peshawar involving the death of a 14-year old boy drew widespread attention. He was discovered dead in the police station of West Cantt Peshawar, and as expected, police officers classified the death as a suicide, while relatives claimed their child was tortured. This case should be reviewed in light of section 176 of the CRPC 1898 for role attribution and determination of the true cause of death of that child who was apprehended and held in police station.[8]

Although S.20 of JJSA 2018 allows for the establishment of observation houses which are defined as facilities where juveniles are temporarily detained after being captured by police, after obtaining remand from a juvenile court, or otherwise for conducting inquiry or investigation. The said homes are to be made distinctly from police stations. [9] Despite S.20 of JJSA 2018 the juvenile prisoners in Pakistan remain at the mercy of an archaic, unjust penal system. A child’s innocence and naivety are further twisted in adult jails, where they are progressively transformed into heinous criminal offenders. The primary source of this problem is Pakistan’s inadequate juvenile justice system. There are now just two borstal facilities in Pakistan, however date shows that there are roughly 1400 juveniles in prisons, with 20% of them being girls. Worst of all, 90 percent of them are awaiting trial. In some of the worst cases in the past, juveniles waited for their trials until they became adults, after which the courts sentenced them to life in prison and executed them in their 30s and 40s without giving them the opportunity to become better citizens by putting them in rehabilitation centres. [10]

By incarcerating juvenile offenders we consign them to a life of crime.[11]The aforementioned violations of child offenders’ human rights in the child justice system can be avoided if the law applicable to child offenders- JJSA 2018, is effectively implemented in Pakistan and all the stakeholders (police, judiciary, prison authorities and forensic experts) responsible for the protection of juvenile offenders rights carry out their responsibilities diligently.

[1] Wajahat Ali Malik, ‘ Children and Justice System in Pakistan’ ( 17 February)<

https://pakngos.com.pk/children-and-justice-system-in-pakistan/> accessed16 June 202

[2] https://www.sparcpk.org/SOPC2019/JJSO.pdf

[3] https://dailytimes.com.pk/803097/the-rotten-juvenile-justice-system-in-the-country/

[4] https://dailytimes.com.pk/664341/juvenile-justice-system-of-pakistan/

[5] https://www.sparcpk.org/SOPC2019/JJSO.pdf

[6] LUMS Law Journal, ‘Does Juvenile get a better law this time?’

[7] https://rsilpak.org/2022/criminal-justice-response-to-extremism-priyantha-case/

[8] Wajahat Ali Malik, ‘Juveniles and Criminal Responsibility’ Daily times (1 March 2019)

[9] http://www.paradigmshift.com.pk/juvenile-justice-system-act-2018/

[10] https://dailytimes.com.pk/849887/juveniles-in-pakistan-are-victimized-heres-why/

[11] https://dailytimes.com.pk/803097/the-rotten-juvenile-justice-system-in-the-country/

Author: Maroof Sani

The author is a third year LLB student and currently working as a research intern at RSIL.

1 comment

Comments are closed.