Only specific courts can deal with child marriage, child sexual abuse cases: Madras HC
Not all courts can simply grant bail to those accused in child marriage and child sexual abuse cases, the Madras High Court reiterated recently. Hearing a petition filed against bail given to a woman accused in a child marriage case, where the man who ‘married’ the minor is also accused of raping her, the High Court held that only the designated special courts could deal with such offences – including granting bail.
Justice MV Muraleedharan was hearing a petition filed by Arumugam, the paternal uncle of a minor who was forcibly married off to a man named Rajadurai. Arumugam had opposed the bail granted to a woman named Mahalakshmi, one of the accused in the case, by the Virudhachalam Judicial Magistrate. Justice Muraleedharan cancelled the bail granted to Mahalakshmi and directed the Inspector of Police of the All Women Police Station, Virudhachalam, to immediately bring her back into custody.
The High Court held that in cases related to the Child Marriage Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, only the District Court – which is the designated Special Court for such cases – can deal with the offences.
This is in accordance with the already existing law, senior advocate Sudha Ramalingam tells TNM. The POCSO Act, 2012, mandates the appointment of Special Public Prosecutors and designated Special Courts for the protection of children from sexual offences to safeguard the interests of the child at every stage of the judicial process.
“The High Court has reiterated that whenever a special court has been constituted for offences relating to child marriage and child sexual abuse cases, only that court can be designated to deal with such cases. This law has always been there,” Sudha Ramalingam tells TNM.
Stressing on why special courts are important, Sudha says, "As the very name suggests, they are courts especially constituted to handle cases under the special acts. When there is a special law and a special court, the ordinary/general courts will be ousted of its jurisdiction to take up cases arising from the said special law.”
In the petition the Madras HC was hearing, the minor girl had been forcibly married to Rajadurai with the help of seven others. Rajadurai had been booked under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, IPC read with section 4 of POCSO Act.
Arumugam filed a complaint earlier with the District Social Welfare Officer (DWSO), alleging that the eight accused had conducted the wedding of Rajadurai and the minor girl on April 11, 2016. The DSWO had asked them to stop the said child marriage, which was against the law. Despite this, Rajadurai forcibly married the minor on June 8, 2016, with the help of seven others.
It has also been reported that Rajadurai sexually assaulted the minor on several occasions. After a case was filed, Rajadurai was arrested and remanded to judicial custody.
Thereafter, Mahalakshmi was arrested on August 13, 2017. However, on the same day, the judicial magistrate had granted bail. Arumugam then decided to file a petition with the High Court.