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The Court has directed the Chief Secretary of the State to file an affidavit disclosing the number of trained psychologists available in various medical institutions and with the Government departments of West Bengal. Similar directions have also been given to the Chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court recently took critical note of dearth of trained psychologists to cater to the counselling needs of victims of sexual abuse.
In view of the same, the Court has now directed the Chief Secretary of West Bengal to file an affidavit disclosing the number of trained psychologists available in various medical institutions and/or in the Department of Women & Child Development and Social Welfare, Government of West Bengal. The Court further directed,
“Such affidavit shall also disclose guidelines, if any, framed under Section 39 of the POCSO Act to ensure participation of adequate number of psychologists during the investigation and trial of POCSO cases.”
Similar directions have also been given to the Chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
A case registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act had brought to the issue to the fore. In this case the Chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee filed a report requisitioning the appointment fo a trained psychologist to counsel a minor victim of sexual abuse.
The Bench of Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Suvra Ghosh noted at the outset that the tenor of the report indicates a chronic lack of trained psychologists. In this backdrop, it was observed,
"Availability of trained psychologists is a sine qua non for the working of the laws enacted to protect minor victims of sexual abuse and other juveniles. We are not unmindful of the fact that most of the sexual offences are perpetrated by persons in trust like the relations and close associates of the victims."
The Court further observed,
"Needless to mention sexual offences leave a much deeper and indelible scar on the psyche of the victim than his/her body. Healing process must begin at the earliest. Prompt availability of psychologists and other experts for counselling of the victims of sexual abuse is, therefore, the most urgent need to extend succor to such victims and their effective rehabilitation and protection.”
Calcutta High Court
The Court wen on to highlight that the protection and rehabilitation measures under the POCSO Act and allied laws would remain illusory if such support mechanisms are not provided for.
The Court added that beneficial provisions under the statute should not become dead letters of law due to such infrastructural and functional deficiencies.
In view of these concerns, the Court has now directed that the State Government and the Child Rights Commissions file their respective affidavits with information on the availability of trained psychologists by the next date of hearing. The matter is expected to be taken up next in three weeks.
[Read the Order]