Giving a push to fast disposal of cases related to children, south India's first Children's Court was inaugurated in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
After Goa and Delhi, Telangana has become the third state to have a child friendly court and sixth in the country with features like separate waiting rooms for children and a video camera trial for the accused, mandated under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act-2012.
The 'child friendly' courtroom was jointly inaugurated at the Nampally Criminal Courts Complex in the city by Acting Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan of High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad and Director General of Telangana Police Anurag Sharma.
POCSO stipulates child-friendly court rooms be put in place across all states at the earliest in the interest of children in need of care. However, such courts are currently functional only in two states - Delhi and Goa.
"This is for the first time in South India and the sixth court in the country to be child friendly," Metropolitan Sessions Judge T Rajani said, adding, at present, there are over 1640 cases under POCSO Act that were pending at various stages in different district courts of Telangana till 2015.
Rajani also said since the court will not handle any other cases other than those relating to children, the volume of casework will be much less, enabling quicker disposal of cases.
"The child (witness/victim) will be allowed direct interaction with the judge, while the accused (who will be at a different location) will be able to view and hear the proceedings via two-way video conferencing in the courtroom," the judge said.
A two-way video communication system, allows the child witness to identify the accused on camera. This also enables the judge to ask questions to the child and the accused without any physical interface.
The judge and the police personnel will be in plain clothes in the children's court and unlike a normal court set-up, the child will not be allowed to come face to face with the alleged offenders to make sure he/she is not intimidated while the court proceedings are on. Thus, providing a non-threatening atmosphere, the DGP said.
"With increasing crimes against children, there is a dire need for systemic reforms in strengthening the evidence gathering process. The child-friendly space for recording the witness and testimony of the child will aid in improving the conviction rates for the crimes against children," Sharma said.
The Nampally project was facilitated by NGO Justice and Care in collaboration with the state government and the judiciary.