The POCSO Act mandates that child-friendly courts be set up to make the criminal justice system less traumatic for the child survivor and their family.

In a first Rs 3 crore for making juvenile courts child-friendly in KarnatakaK'taka's first child-friendly court, inaugurated in Aug 2018
news Budget Friday, February 08, 2019 - 16:41

The Karnataka budget for 2019-20 was presented by Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy in the Assembly on Friday. In a first, the state government allocated Rs 3 crore for the conversion of juvenile special courts into child-friendly courts in 10 districts in the state. Earlier, allocations have been made for the same, but this appears to be the first time that this has found mention in the state budget.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act mandates that child-friendly courts be set up to make the criminal justice system less traumatic for the child survivor and their family. These courts are to create a child-friendly atmosphere through a number of measures – ensuring that the perpetrator and survivor do not come into direct contact, allowing the child to take frequent breaks during trial, allowing a parent, guardian, relative or an adult the child trusts to be in court, and so on.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act also provides for setting up children’s courts in every district in a state under Sections 25 and 26 of the Act.

Further, the Supreme Court had in February 2018 urged Chief Justices of all High Courts to establish child-friendly courts in each district. “It is often said that the experience in our courts of a juvenile accused of an offence or the victim of a sexual offence is traumatic. We need to have some compassion towards them – even juveniles in conflict with law, since they are entitled to the presumption of innocence – and establishing child-friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts is perhaps one manner in which the justice delivery system can respond to ease their pain and suffering,” a bench of Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta had observed.

Six months after this, in August, Karnataka got its first two child-friendly courts. On August 5, 2018, two courts were inaugurated in the Bengaluru city civil court complex near Mysore Bank Circle, one each for Bengaluru urban and rural.

The salient features of the court include two halls separated by a glass wall, in order to prevent contact between the child and the accused. They are also equipped with video conferencing facilities between the court hall and the waiting room, in the scenario that the child is not comfortable deposing before the court or if the family/guardians of the child want to see the court proceedings from the waiting room.

The waiting areas are also equipped with toys and storybooks to provide a welcoming and calming environment for child survivors and witnesses.

CM Kumaraswamy presented the budget at 12.30 pm on Friday after much political drama in the morning. The Chief Minister, in an explosive presser, alleged that BJP Karnataka chief BS Yeddyurappa had offered bribes to MLAs, as recently as last night, in an attempt to topple the Congress-JD(S) alliance in power in the state. He released a tape, which featured a conversation between people purported to be Yeddyurappa, a JD(S) MLA’s son Sharan Gouda, and a few others.

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