Mandated to monitor implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) does not have any data on POCSO cases in the country, it came to light in Supreme Court on Thursday.
The revelation prompted CJI Ranjan Gogoi to remark, “What were they (NCPCR) doing for seven years?”
The comments came after Supreme Court Registrar Surinder S Rathi, acting on the court’s direction to collate data on POCSO cases, told the bench that NCPCR did not have any required details and he had to collect it from other sources, including the National Crime Records Bureau and Parliament website.
NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo refused to comment on the issue.
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Sources in NCPCR said the Commission submitted whatever data was available with it to the apex court on Thursday morning. They, however, admitted that data available with NCPCR is extremely “superficial and irrelevant”.
Rathi told the court that he got a message from NCPCR seeking particulars of district officials so that the Commission can collect data from them. Rathi and Senior Advocate V Giri, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the case, told the Bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, that under Section 44 of POCSO Act and Rules made thereunder, NCPCR had a statutory obligation to compile and keep the data. Section 44 says NCPCR or the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights “shall, in addition to functions assigned to them under the Act, also monitor implementation of provisions of this Act in such manner as may be prescribed”.
Rathi informed the court as per data procured by him from various sources, nearly 1.5 lakh cases under POCSO Act are pending. Uttar Pradesh had the most cases pending – over 44,000 – followed by Maharashtra with over 19,000 cases.
The national average of disposal of POCSO cases was 24 per cent, he said.
Rathi said Mizoram was the best performing state in this regard with 52 percent disposal rate. Even if no fresh chargesheet was filed, the number of pending cases would still need six years to complete, he pointed out.
The last available NCRB data is for 2016, according to which 89 per cent of the total cases before the courts are pending trial while the pendency rate at the police investigation stage is 31 percent.
“NCPCR still follows an outdated format of data collection, which only lists out state-wise number of nodal officers, special courts, special prosecutors, whether the victim has received compensation, etc. It doesn’t collect or maintain district-wise data on POCSO cases before the police or courts, nor does it have data disaggregated as per various sections of POSCO Act,” a source in the commission said.
Sources in NCPCR said the Commission started the process of developing a new online tool and format for data collection only in December 2018 but the portal is still is its “testing period”.
On the courts to POCSO cases ratio, Rathi submitted that the most worrying was Kerala, with only three courts, each handling over 2200 cases. The official also touched up in the aspect of compensation for child victims and said that in 2017, only 5 per cent victims had got compensation.
Recently, the Women and Child Development Ministry announced that the government would set up 1,023 fast-track courts using the Nirbhaya fund, and that 18 states are on board to set up such courts to deal exclusively with cases under POCSO. However, legal and child rights experts have pointed out that proposing fast-track courts alone do not help matters unless more judges are appointed or public prosecutors are trained to sensitively handle such cases.
As per data analyses by The Indian Express, owing to the overburdened legal system less than 3 per cent of child rape cases before the courts end up in conviction.
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