QUETTA: The legal assistance to a child, who is either a victim of an offence or accused of the commission of an offence, has been recognised as a legal right under Section Three of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000 (JJSO, 2000). The Section states: “1) Every child who is accused of the commission of an offence or is a victim of an offence shall have the right of legal assistance at the expense of the State; 2) A legal practitioner appointed by the State for providing legal assistance to a child accused of the commission of an offence, or victim of an offence, shall have at least five years standing at the Bar.”
For the said purposes, the sessions judges have been empowered under the Provincial Juvenile Justice System Rules to constitute panels of lawyers to provide legal assistance to juveniles.
In Balochistan, over 30 per cent of the children are in detention, merely because they were not able to afford the services of a lawyer. As required by the JJSO, 2000, a panel of lawyers has not been constituted and not a single case has been referred to any of the panels due to the fact that funds have not been allocated for this purpose. In the absence a panel of lawyers and due to a lack of funds for providing free legal aid to children, the JJSO’s provisions have not been followed.
The chief justice of the Balochistan High Court is requested to take measures for the constitution of a panel of lawyers in the province and for the allocation of funds at the disposal of the district and sessions judges for the payment of fees to the lawyers appointed for providing legal assistance. Allocation of a small amount of even one million rupees could prove to be a milestone in the history of protecting children rights in Pakistan.
Nadir Ali Khoso Advocate
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.
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