Set up special courts for Pocso cases: SC
Expressing dismay at the state of judicial infrastructure to deal with such cases, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi said the special courts would exclusively deal with Pocso cases and nothing else.Updated: Jul 26, 2019 08:33 IST
The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Centre to establish within 60 days a special court in every district that has at least 100 cases pending under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act, 2012.
Expressing dismay at the state of judicial infrastructure to deal with such cases, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi said the special courts would exclusively deal with Pocso cases and nothing else.
“Such courts will be set up under a special central scheme funded by the central government, which will not only take care of appointing presiding officers (judges) but support persons, public prosecutors, court staff, infrastructure, child friendly environment,” it said.
The directive is aimed at expediting investigations and trial in sexual offence cases against children. Under the Pocso Act, investigations have to be completed in two months and an appeal decided in six months. However, ground data indicates a sorry state of affairs.
As per statistics collated by the SC registry based on which the CJI took up the matter, as many as 24,212 Pocso cases have been reported between January 1 and June 30 this year. Of these, trial is yet to begin in 50% cases as investigations are yet to be completed and charge sheets have not been filed.
The bench made it clear that while recruiting support persons and special public prosecutors for such courts, their interest in the subject should be given due consideration, not merely their academic qualifications.
Under the Act, questions cannot be put directly to the child. It is the support person who acts as the mediator between the presiding officer and the child.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who participated in the hearing on behalf of the government, has been asked to submit a status report on compliance with its order by September 26.
Senior advocate VV Giri, who has been asked to assist the court, suggested setting up new forensic labs exclusively for Pocso cases. He said the major reason for delay in trial was delay by forensic labs in providing reports of samples sent for examination.
Giri said at times samples were not sent immediately to the labs, and at times the labs sent back samples saying they were not worthy of examination. There was a shortage of labs, he emphasised.
The top court, however, said that for now it would ask states to ensure forensic labs worked effectively and did not delay reports. It directed state chief secretaries to ensure compliance with its order.
Giri also highlighted the need for separate juvenile police units in each state, saying no state seemed to have them as required by law.
The judges remarked verbally that it was easy to make criminal laws but difficult to enforce them. “Nobody looks at the impact on judicial infrastructure when an Act is made. It has to be an ongoing process,” the court said.
Women and child development ministry officials hailed the order, saying the proposed Pocso courts would speed up delivery of justice.
Priyank Kanungo, director of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said state governments had already notified courts to hear child crime cases. “But they are not exclusively for Pocso. This judgment is welcome.”
According to Enakshi Ganguly of the HAQ Centre for Child Rights, the judgment was progressive as it took into account the need for support staff to dispose of cases. “This is a 360-degree view, and it is positive that the apex court has taken note. Yet, we need to be mindful of the quality of judges,” she said.
Bhuwan Ribhu of the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation said a 2016 study done by the organisation had found that it would take nine years to dispose of all pending cases, if no new case was filed. “Today, it will take a decade. In states like Gujarat, it will take 55 years.”