Ineffective tackling of POCSO Act: SC judge

Need to focus on states where disposal rate of POCSO act low: SC

The Supreme Court on Friday said there was a need to give "more focus" to those states where disposal rate of cases pertaining to sexual offences against children under the POCSO Act was very poor.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant was hearing a batch of petitions, including those which have been take note of by it suo motu (on its own), relating to sexual offences against women and children.

"Yesterday, I was looking at a report on the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act cases. There were 40,000 cases and out of that, only 10,000 have been disposed off. It means 30,000 cases are unattended," the bench asked Attorney General K K Venugopal and other senior lawyers to "suggest measures" to effectively tackle the problem.

"We want Siddharth Luthra (senior advocate who is assisting the bench as an amicus curiae) to prepare the list of states where maximum number of such cases are there. We will take greater care of those states where the pendency of such cases are high," the bench said, adding that issuance of general order will not serve the purpose.

However, during the hearing, the bench was told that another bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta has been extensively hearing a similar suo motu case titled "In-re Alarming Rise in The Number of Reported Child Rape Incidents" and has passed a slew of directions to deal with the problems.

"Now, all these cases will be heard by the special bench, comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, after four weeks," it said and asked the lawyers to advance their arguments before the special bench only.

During the brief hearing, the bench was suggesting to rope in organisation like 'Bachpan Bachao Andolan' (BBA) to help it in dealing with sexual offences against children.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, who is also assisting the bench as an amicus curiae, opposed the suggestion saying that BBA was dealing with child labour.

Earlier, in December last year, the top court had taken suo motu (on its own) cognisance of assessment of the criminal justice system in response to sexual offences and had said that delay in cases like the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case in the recent times has created "agitation, anxiety and unrest" in the minds of people.

It had said post the Nirbhaya case, which shocked the conscience of the nation despite many amendments introduced in the criminal law to redefine the ambit of offences providing for effective and speedy probe and trial in rape cases, the NCRB's 2017 data said 32,559 cases of rape were registered in India.

It had asked all states and high courts for the status report on various questions on compliance of procedure laid down by the court and the law, including whether medical experts have done away with the controversial Per-Vaginum examination, commonly referred to as 'Two-finger test' of rape victims, which was held to be violative of the dignity of woman in 2013 by the apex court.

The bench, headed by the CJI, had sought responses and status reports by February 7 this year from all states and high courts on several aspects, including utilisation of the Nirbhaya fund, speedy probe and trial, collection of evidence, forensic and medical evidence, recording of statement and compensation to the victim in such cases.

Prior to this, the predecessor of Justice Bobde, then CJI Ranjan Gogoi (since retired), on its own had taken cognisance of alarming rise in the number of reported child rape incidents and had asked the Centre and all the state governments to play "a much more proactive role" in ensuring speedy probes and completion of trials of such cases within a year.

It had directed all state governments and the Centre "to do what is required to be done to ensure" that the probe and the trial in Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) cases are completed within the time frame by creation of "additional force for investigation".

It had further directed the Centre and the states to take steps for sensitisation of their officials associated with the probe and create dedicated courts to try POCSO cases on "top priority" so that the chargesheets are filed and the trials are completed within the time frame contemplated under the law.

The Supreme Court has also sought the Centre's response on the "draft scheme" for compensation, the apex court's registrar, who took note of the fact that in 99 per cent POCSO cases, the child victims are not paid any interim compensation by government authorities.

In 2013, it had taken note of a PIL, which was filed after the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case.

The petition had said that there are various prominent issues, including establishment of a formal compensatory mechanism for rape victims, which needs to be addressed for the safety and security of women.

It had said that private buses, which are operating in the National Capital Region region without valid licences, should be brought to book and if anyone is found violating the same then their licence be cancelled. They should also be booked for offences under the Motor Vehicles Act or the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

It had also pointed out that there is a "compelling need" to establish a criminal injuries compensation board to provide instantaneous and expeditious monetary relief to rape victims. 

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