The Bombay High Court on Friday took exception to the manner in which trials in cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act were proceeding before POCSO courts [Azaruddin N. Mirsilkar vs The State of Maharashtra].
Justice Bharati Dangre was disappointed at both the pace of trial before such courts as well as the fact that such courts were being assigned other cases, thereby, delaying POCSO cases.
The Court was dealing with a bail plea where a 14-year-old minor had allegedly been sexually assaulted by the accused in 2016. The minor later gave birth to a child.
The Court had in March this year asked the public prosecutor to inform the bench about the status of the trial.
However, it was disheartened to know that only one witness out of fifteen witnesses had been examined so after the High Court's query in March.
"Today, the picture that comes before me is not only very bleak but disappointing too. It is only when the writ was issued by this Court, the trial commenced with a snail speed, with a result that as on date only one witness has been examined in the case," Justice Dangre said.
Disappointed at the pace with which the Special POCSO courts were proceeding, the Court called for a report from the Principal Judge of Mumbai Sessions Court by July 4 setting out the following details:
Number of POCSO Courts which have been designated as ‘Special Courts’;
number of cases pending before such courts;
the appointment of Special Public Prosecutors in POCSO courts.
In the present case, the Court observed that the trial was so slow that the victim's statement came to be recorded after five years from the filing of the case.
The pace of the trial was defeating the purpose of the Act, the Court said.
"The manner in which the Special Courts are proceeding with the POCSO trial, dealing with the offenders under the Special Statute, enacted with a specific avowed purpose, to prevent exploitation of minor/children and punish the offenders itself is being defeated by the procedure that is adopted by the Special Courts," the Court said.
Justice Dangre also was apprised that the special courts were also being assigned with other court cases.
"At the instructions of the Investigating Officer, who attend the POCSO cases in Dindoshi Court, the learned APP state that only one Court is a Special Court for trying the offences under the POCSO Act, 2012, whereas other Courts which are assigned with POCSO cases are also required to take some other assignment. This is a disturbing feature and it’s veracity has to be first ascertained," the Judge noted while adjourning the case for hearing on July 4.