July 26, 2019 1:19:25 am
Moving swiftly to ensure faster investigation and trial in cases of offences against children, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered setting up of special courts exclusively to try cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and directed they be made operational within 60 days.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said that these courts will be established under a scheme funded by the Centre. This project, the court said, should take care of the appointment of presiding officers, special public prosecutors and support persons and creation of child-friendly courtrooms.
Under the Act, questions cannot be put directly to a child and the support person is required to act as the mediator between the presiding officer and the child.
The court reminded that during recruitment of support persons and special public prosecutors for these courts, their interest in the subject should also be given due consideration and focus should not be only on their academic qualification.
The bench passed these orders while hearing a matter in which it had taken suo motu cognizance of the delay in investigation and rising number of pending cases of offences against children.
The bench had earlier asked Senior Advocate V Giri to assist it as amicus curiae. It also sought the Centre’s assistance through Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta.
Giri, who came up with suggestions to remedy the situation, said one of the major reasons that led to delay in trial in these cases was the delay by forensic science labs (FSLs) in providing reports of samples sent for examination.
Sometimes, he said, samples are not sent immediately and there are occasions when FSL sends back the sample, saying it is not worthy of examination. Giri also highlighted the dismal storage facility in existing labs and said that as a result, the sample get putrefied. He suggested setting up new labs exclusively for POCSO cases.
But the court said that for now, it will ask states to ensure that their forensic labs work effectively and do not delay the trial. It directed Chief Secretaries of states to ensure compliance of its order.
Giri also suggested the need for separate juvenile police units in each state and added that no state seems to have this.
The court also directed the Women and Child Development Ministry to implement the amicus’s suggestion to play “a short clip” to spread awareness on prevention of child abuse and prosecution of crimes against children “in every movie hall” and on TV channels at regular intervals.
“A child helpline number should be displayed not only in such clip but also at various other prominent places, in schools and other public places,” the order stated, agreeing with Giri’s suggestion. It asked the Solicitor General to inform it of the progress in implementation of its order after four weeks.
During the hearing, the bench expressed its displeasure over the sorry state of infrastructure in the lower judiciary and called for measures to address this. “Nobody looks at the impact on judicial infrastructure when an Act is made. It has to be an ongoing process,” remarked Justice Deepak Gupta when the amicus highlighted the need for improving infrastructure for trial of POCSO cases,
CJI Gogoi said that when offences under Negotiable Instruments Act were made criminal from civil, thousands of new courts became necessary to try them.
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