[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Supreme Court of India has issued a slew of directions to ensure timely completion of investigations and consequential trials in offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act)
Hearing a suo moto petition on July 25, 2019, on the alarming rise in the number of reported child rape incidents, a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi with Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose issued the following directions-
In each district of the country, if there are more than 100 cases under the POCSO Act, an exclusive/designated special Court will be set up, which will try no other offence except those under the POCSO Act.
Such courts will be set up under a Central scheme and will be funded by the Central Government, which fund will not only take care of the appointment of the Presiding Officer, but also the appointments of support persons, Special Public Prosecutors, Court staff and infrastructure including creation of child friendly environment and vulnerable witness Courtrooms, etc
While drawing up the panel(s) of support persons in each district which should not exceed a reasonable number keeping in mind the total number of cases to be tried by the special court, care should be taken to appoint persons who are dedicated to the cause and apart from academic qualifications are oriented towards child rights; are sensitive to the needs of a child and are otherwise child friendly. The same standards would also apply in the matter of appointment of Special Public Prosecutors.
The following suggestions of the amicus curiae shall also be implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development through such agency as may be considered appropriate:
“A short clip intended to spread awareness of the subject in general, namely, prevention of child abuse and prosecution of crimes against children, should necessarily be screened in every movie hall and could also be transmitted by various television channels at regular intervals. A child helpline number should also be displayed not only in such clip but also at various other prominent places, in schools and other public places.
The court had appointed senior advocate V Giri as amicus curiae in the case. It had also entrusted Supreme Court Registrar Surinder Rathi with the work of collating and collecting data in association with the office of the amicus curiae, and the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
The court took note of the report submitted by the amicus curiae which had said one of the major causes of delay in winding up investigations and in cases where charge-sheets had been filed, in winding up the trial, was the delay in receipt of the reports from the forensic science laboratories. He had, therefore, suggested that there should be designated forensic science laboratories in every district of the country for the purposes of the POCSO Act. The court, however, said that that suggestion could await orders of the court at a later stage.
For the present, the court directed the directors of the state forensic science laboratories and the concerned authority in the state governments to ensure that the existing and available laboratories functioned in an effective manner insofar as analysis of the samples collected under the POCSO Act were concerned and reports of such analysis be sent promptly and without any delay.
“The Chief Secretaries of all the states and union territories are directed to ensure that the above direction of the court is complied with forthwith. We would expect our above-stated directions to be implemented and exclusively designated courts to try offences under the POCSO Act, in terms of the above directions, to start functioning within 60 days from the date of the present order,” the Supreme Court directed.