RETIRED BOMBAY High Court Justice V M Kanade on Saturday said India lacks child-friendly courts and police stations.
“We still do not have courts that are child-friendly. We need to have courts that exclusively cater to the children. Every day in the newspapers, you read about cases of child rape and murder. They are so prevalent that even the police are not able to deal with them,” Justice Kanade said at a day-long judges’ conclave organised by International Justice Mission (IJM) and Maharashtra State Commission for Women.
Addressing issues like institutionalising procedures and building victim-friendly infrastructure, Justice Kanade said, “Cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act are on the rise. The victims of such crimes are traumatised and we need to deal sensitively with them. To some extent, we have child-friendly police stations as each police station has a separate machinery to record evidence of juveniles in conflict with the law.”
But in trial courts, victims often come face-to-face with accused, which is a violation of the POCSO Act, he added. “For want of space, POCSO Act trials take place along with other trials in the presence of hardened criminals. In letter and spirit, the Act has not been followed. We have come mid-way. There is need to fine-tune our knowledge of law and procedure,” he said.
Retired HC Justice Roshan Dalvi recalled how some judges at the Bombay city civil and sessions court would often make the accused in POCSO Act cases stand between two wooden cupboards inside courtrooms to ensure that they are not seen by the victims who had come to depose.
Priti Patkar, co-founder and director of NGO Prerana, said she has launched a manual for social workers on how to assist children through trials. The IJM and the women’s commission launched a curriculum for public prosecutors to sensitise them on laws and guidelines relating to commercial sexual exploitation.