The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Centre to set up a dedicated special court in every district which has over 100 cases under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) pending. The apex court gave this mandate with a deadline of 60 days, as it was concerned about the slow pace at which child sexual abuse cases are being dealt with.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose made these statements when they learnt that 1.5 lakh POCSO cases were pending in 670 designated courts. Quoting available data, the court pointed out that only 3% victims in POCSO cases received compensation in 2015, and the number increased to only 4% and 5% in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Per this data, a judge on an average has to go decide on 224 cases.
To address this, the apex court asked for the Centre to set up special courts, which should be funded by the Centre as well. ‚ÄúThe fund will not only take care of the appointment of the presiding officer but also appointments of support persons, special public prosecutors, court staff and infrastructure, including creation of child-friendly environment and vulnerable witness court rooms,‚ÄĚ the Supreme Court said.
The court has listed the matter for further hearing on September 26.
Screening films on preventing CSA in movie theatres
The Supreme Court also agreed on a suggestion to screen a short clip on prevention of child abuse and prosecution of crimes against children in every movie hall and on television channels.
In a report submitted to the court, senior advocate V Giri, an amicus curiae in the PIL registered by the court under the title "In re Alarming Rise in The Number of Reported Child Rape Incidents", said: "A short clip intended to spread an 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."
He also suggested including having a child helpline number in this clip along with having it displayed at prominent places, schools and other public places.
Agreeing to the suggestion, the court, in its order, said: "The following suggestions of the learned amicus curiae shall also be implemented by the Ministry of Women and Chlid Development through such agency as may be considered appropriate.
Svadha Shankar, who assisted Giri on the matter, said the awareness through this clip will leave a long-lasting impression on people's mind. "Films and television channels is the best medium to spread awareness on the issue. These platforms engage millions every day. It will definitely help the cause," said Shankar.
The court observed that it is essential to ensure timely completion of investigations and consequential trials in the offences under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
More Forensic Science Labs needed for POCSO cases
Further, the Supreme Court also noted that more designated Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) were needed across the country to avoid delay in trial and for early disposal of cases covered by POCSO Act.
The bench directed the directors and the authorities concerned of every state forensic laboratory to ensure that the existing and available FSLs function in an effective manner in analysing samples collected under the POCSO Act.
The court also directed that the reports of such analysis be sent promptly.
The court observation came when it was informed by amicus curiae V Giri that one of the major causes of delay in winding up the investigations and trial is the delay in receipt of the reports from the Forensic Science Laboratory.
However, the bench did not pass any order, saying "the said suggestion could await orders of the court at a later stage."
But, it directed Chief Secretaries of all states and Union Territories to ensure that the direction of the court in efficient working of FSL should be followed.
Legal experts have welcomed the suggestion of the amicus curiae.
Advocate Mihir Mishra, who practises in the top court, said forensic reports play a crucial part in probing the cases, and that such reports would also help in early disposal of cases due to availability of scientific and medical evidence.
"DNA reports will help in identifying involvement of the accused," Mishra said.
"DNA profiling, a forensic technique in a criminal investigation, plays a vital role in contemporary criminal justice systems. DNA profiling can help in bringing about early conviction and exoneration," said Mishra.
He said due to lack of FSL and its men power, the labs take a long time in preparing reports in each case.
Sharing Mishra's views, Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra told IANS that forensic experts are overburdened with many cases in the absence of adequate number of of FSLs in the country.
She said efficient forensic experts should handle such matters.
There are seven Central Forensic Science Laboratories in the country and around 30 forensic labs under state governments.
The seven CFSL are at Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh, New Delhi, Guwahati, Bhopal and Pune.
(With IANS inputs)