The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 makes it mandatory for the courts to complete the trial of a case related to sexual abuse of minor children within a year. In many cases, however, the special courts have not even begun the trials within a year from the date of taking cognizance of the offence.
In a recent case, when accused Imran Shaikh alias Imran Kari, a teacher in a madrassa booked for sexually assaulting a 11-year-old boy, approached the court to begin the trial in the case, the court turned down his plea. It stated that his case is of last year and will have to wait for its turn as cases from 2012 are still pending.
“It is observed that as submitted by public prosecutor cases are pending before this court pertaining to the year 2012 and all the cases are being taken accordingly. It is not possible for this court to frame charge in this case at present and so this case will be taken up accordingly in due course,” said designated judge of POSCO Srishty Neelkanth.
Shaikh’s advocate had approached the court contending that the accused has been in custody for more than a year and the case was fixed for framing of charges since last six to seven occasions but charges could not be framed. He hence pleaded the court to begin with his trial.
The public prosecutor, however, submitted that the cases older than his are pending and Shaikh’s is a case of 2015. It was further submitted that the cases should be taken on priority basis. The court upholding the submission of the public prosecutor rejected Shaikh’s application.
The public prosecutor on the condition of anonymity said that the cases are delayed for several reasons primary being that there are only three special courts while there are a large number of cases that lie pending. “The judges are also transferred frequently. While in many of the cases defence advocates too delay the process,” said the public prosecutor.
A defence lawyer Prakash Salsingikar who appears in many of the cases registered under POCSO Act said that trials get delayed because of the lack of infrastructure. “On an average, around three to four cases are registered daily and we have only three courts that have to deal with remand of the accused, bail pleas, several other applications and trial. In a day, a court can practically record statement of only one or two witnesses and rest of the cases have to be adjourned,” said Salsingikar.
He also said that in several cases, due to delay in trials, the witnesses especially kids forget details of the incident and accused benefit from it.
Court rejects accused’s bail
Shailesh Kaini alias Khino was arrested on 20 March 2014 when he was caught sexually arresting a three-year-old girl. The special court has, however, not even begun the trial in the case and Khino had already applied for a bail. The designated judge Rekha Pandhare while rejecting Khino’s bail application last month observed that the case is at the stage of evidence and if advocates of both the side co-operate, then the trial can be completed within a month.
In another case, a 25-year-old who was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a five-year-old girl was granted bail to keep him away from “hardened criminals”. Judge Srishty Neelkanth granted the accused Ayajuddin Shaikh bail and observed, “As stated by the advocate of the accused, it would take some time for trial to begin. So, I am of the opinion that no purpose would be served by keeping the accused, only of 25, behind bars with hardened criminals.”