Child Rapes: SC Issues Directions For The Better Implementation Of POCSO Act [Read Judgment]

Child Rapes: SC Issues Directions For The Better Implementation Of POCSO Act [Read Judgment]

The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice A. M. Khanwilkar on Tuesday issued a string of directions in respect of the trial and disposal of matters under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012.

The bench was hearing the PIL filed by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, drawing the attention of the court to the shocking incident of rape of an eight-month-old girl by her 28-year-old cousin in Shakur Basti of North-West Delhi in January, seeking guidelines to ensure that investigation and trial of cases involving rape of children below the age of 12 years is completed within six months from the date of lodging of the FIR.

Mr. Srivastava submitted to the bench a compilation on the pendency of Cases under the POCSO Act in all states, except the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, based on the data communicated by the registries of the respective High Courts- “the rate of pendency is as high as 89% to 95%...although section 35 of the POCSO Act envisages the conclusion of trial within one year from the date of cognizance, several matters have been pending since 2013...further, the Act requires the designation of exclusive courts (section 28; POCSO Act) but the jurisdiction under the Act has been assumed by the regular courts...”

The petitioner-in-person also submitted as many as 22 suggestions in the light of inter alia the the use of the phrase “as far as possible” in section 35 of the Act and the definition of “child” under its section 2(1)(d).

ASG Pinky Anand informed the bench that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance of 2018 has been promulgated on April 21 with a view to amend the POCSO Act to stipulate the capital punishment for rape of children below the age of 12 years

“Does the ordinance fix the time limit for completion of trial?”, inquired the Chief Justice.

“The ordinance prescribes the punishment...the time limit has been provided in the Cr. P. C. is 6 months for appeals and 2 months for the completion of investigation...”, responded the ASG.

On Tuesday, the bench observed that “in Supreme Court Women Lawyers’ Association v. UOI (2016), the court had expressed its anguish on the adversities in the various kinds of sexual offences against children such as sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and the use of children for pornographic purposes...the nature of assault and punishment and the concept of ‘child’ came up for consideration in the said case...the court has not accepted the submission that a mentally retarded woman would be treated as a ‘child’ for the purpose of section 2(1)(d) of the POCSO Act ...It is Mr. Srivastava’s submission that despite the provision of section 35 of the Act, the trials are pending in the courts of various states and the grievances have not been adequately addressed...we may take the example of two states, namely, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, where over 10,000 and 30,000 cases respectively are pending...the pendency is at the evidence stage in most cases...”

In view of the same, the bench on Tuesday issued the following directions-

• The High Courts shall ensure that the cases registered under the POCSO Act are tried and disposed off by special courts in compliance with the provisions of the Act
• Such “special courts”, as envisaged under the POCSO Act, may be assigned the duty to deal with cases under the Act
• Instructions shall be issued to the “special courts” to fast-track the disposal of matters by not granting any unnecessary adjournments and following the procedure under the Act of 2012
• The High Courts shall constitute a committee of an appropriate number of judges to monitor the progress of trial under the Act
• The Director General of Police of the states shall constitute a Special Task Force to assist in investigation and the production of witnesses before the trial courts on the due date
• Efforts shall be made by the High Courts to provide child friendly courts in accordance with the spirit of the POCSO Act.

Read Judgment here