The Supreme Court, on Friday, requested Chief Justices of all High Courts to "seriously consider" establishing child friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts in each district.
The Bench comprising Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta observed, "Inquiries under the JJ Act and trials under other statutes such as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, trials for sexual offences under the Indian Penal Code and other similar laws require to be conducted with a high degree of sensitivity, care and empathy for the victim. It is often said that the experience in our courts of a juvenile accused of an offence or the victim of a sexual offence is traumatic.
We need to have some compassion towards them – even juveniles in conflict with law, since they are entitled to the presumption of innocence - and establishing child friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts is perhaps one manner in which the justice delivery system can respond to ease their pain and suffering. Another advantage of such child friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts is that they can be used for trials in which adult women are victims of sexual offences since they too are often traumatized by the not so friendly setting and environment in our courts."
The Court was hearing a Petition filed by activist and human rights defender Dr. Sampurna Behura, who had highlighted the "virtual non-implementation or tardy implementation" of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Acknowledging the veracity of the accusations, the Court further opined that it would be appropriate for High Courts to initiate suo motu proceedings for better implementation of the Acts.
The 62-page judgment begins by tracing the resolutions passed during Chief Justices' conference since 2006. It then acknowledged that while it may be criticized for judicial activism and overstepping its boundaries, it nevertheless rapped the State Governments for not implementing the Act in its true spirit, noting:
"...over the last decade or so, State Governments and Union Territories have not fully complied with the provisions of a law solemnly enacted by Parliament for the benefit of children. In many instances, only cosmetic changes have been introduced at the ground level with the result that voiceless children continue to be subjects of official apathy.
However, it must be acknowledged that the Union of India through the Ministry of Women and Child Development (for short MWCD) has taken some bold steps in recognizing the rights of the children and giving them some importance. Nevertheless, the overall picture relating to the recognition of the rights of children and their realization is far from satisfactory and remains gloomy as we continue to trudge along the long and winding road."
The Court issued the following directions:
Functioning of the National and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights
Functioning of State and District Child Protection Units
Functioning of Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees
Use of technology
Role of the Police
Management of and recruitment to Child Care Institutions
Unavailability of funds
NALSA to submit report on the Act before 30 April, 2018
Training and sensitization of involved officers
Suo motu proceedings