A compilation of reports filed by judges in charge of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) cases in all 11 districts of Delhi and the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) has cited “serious deficiencies in infrastructure” as the reason for delays in disposal of cases.
The judges, in their report sent to the Delhi High Court administration, said it is “not feasible” to follow the mandate of the POCSO Act, which states that the victim’s statement must be recorded within 30 days of framing of charges, and that trial should be completed within one year.
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The High Court was hearing two separate PILs on the issue of high pendency of child sexual abuse cases in the capital.
As per official statistics, only 18.49 per cent of persons accused of child sexual abuse under the POCSO Act were found guilty by courts in Delhi in 2016.
While the POCSO conviction rate in 2014 was merely 16.33 per cent, 2015 saw a conviction rate of 19.65 per cent, said the DSLSA in its report. The conviction rate “leaves an unsavory image of the way the criminal justice system is being administered in Delhi and it creates an alarm in the mind of the general public that child victims of rape and sexual offence are not getting justice,” adds the DSLSA report.
However, the DSLSA maintained that there is a need to analyse the reasons behind the high acquittal rate, and suggested that monthly reports can be compiled from the 11 district POCSO courts to conduct a proper legal audit, “reflecting upon the working of various stakeholders — police, prosecution, courts, NGOs, forensic and medical teams, etc”.
The report stated that out of 4,009 POCSO cases that are pending before the 11 courts, 2,784 are held up at the stage of examination of evidence of the prosecution.
The judges added that the maximum delays in trials are due to delays in getting forensic reports. Citing an example, one particular district judge pointed out that seven cases, under his jurisdiction, are pending for more than three years because DNA reports have not been submitted yet, while some other cases are pending for over two years as the forensic reports are not available.
The judges also pointed out the lack of special courtrooms to examine vulnerable witnesses. Tis Hazari, Karkardooma, Rohini and Saket courts have only one such courtroom each, whereas the court complexes have two or three district courts, the judges explained. “In a day, not more than two child victims can be examined, considering the amount of time that is taken to examine them,” said one of the judges in the status report.
Further, unavailability of victims or witnesses also lead to adjournments, they said.