Set up Special POCSO Courts within 60 days, Supreme Court to Centre

Set up Special POCSO Courts within 60 days, Supreme Court to Centre

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today directed the Central government to set up special POCSO courts in every district that has over 100 pending cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi with Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose directed that these courts be set up within a period of 60 days to exclusively hear POCSO cases.

Further, these Special Courts have to be set up under a Central scheme, funded by the Centre. The Court directed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to submit a progress report on the same within four weeks. The case has been posted to be taken up next on September 26.

The Court was hearing a suo motu case concerning the rise in the number of child rape cases. The Amicus Curiae in the case, Senior Counsel V Giri submitted a report that touched upon various issues, including lack of proper judicial infrastructure for the trial of POCSO cases, the need for qualified support persons, problems leading to slow winding up of investigation and insufficient POCSO Courts.

Opining on the need for Special Courts, CJI Gogoi observed that special legislation provides for setting up of special courts but the same has not translated into reality. Instead, existing judges are given jurisdiction to hear cases under special laws. CJI Gogoi said,

To make a law is not difficult, to ensure that a law is implemented successfully is difficult.”

Registrar of the Supreme Court, SS Rathi told the Court that the national average of disposal of POCSO cases in the period between 2014-18 is 24 percent. Rathi was entrusted with the responsibility to furnish data concerning the special courts, pendency rates and disposal rates, among other things

Justice Deepak Gupta pointed out that even in States where POCSO courts are set up, facilities such as vulnerable witnesses protection rooms, video conferencing, etc are not available.  Echoing the thought, CJI Gogoi said that the laws passed by the Parliament may provide for such things and they may be available in places like Delhi, but a country-wide view has to be considered.

Laws are passed by the Parliament and new law means new responsibility and additional burden for the Judges because the Judges vacancies are still high… These are the issues affecting the Judiciary, not Collegium.

Rathi, also apprised the Court about the best and worst-performing States as regards pendency, disposal of cases and the number of judges available for cases as per the available data.

Both Rathi and Giri submitted before the Court that additional time may be required to collate more data.

The Court, thus, passed directions for setting up Special Courts. In addition, the Court said that a panel consisting of an appropriate number of support persons should be appointed. The standards applied for the appointment of public prosecutors should be applied for the appointment of support persons.

The Court also said that the Chief Secretaries of States ought to ensure that the existing Forensic Science Laboratories on the States should function efficiently.

Importantly, the Court accepted one of the suggestions of the Amicus Curiae that a short clip intended to spread awareness about prevention of child abuse and prosecution of crimes against children, should be screened in every movie hall and transmitted by various television channels at regular intervals. The Ministry of Women and Child Development have been directed to implement this suggestion.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made a suggestion to the Court that one Judge from each High Court could monitor the functioning of Special POCSO Courts. In response, CJI Gogoi said,

Most High Court judges have a causelist running into 400 cases. The number of cases is alarmingly high. We have fewer cases… We will do it. Mr. Mehta, please ask your government to make the money available.”

While directing Mehta to inform the Court of  the progress in the matter, CJI Gogoi also added,

This case will be the top priority of the Solicitor General.

[Read Order]

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