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[Recording Of Testimonies Of Child Witnesses Through VC] NALSA To Pay Rs. 1500 Per Day As Honorarium To Remote Point Co-ordinators : Supreme Court

Sohini Chowdhury
1 Feb 2022 2:20 PM GMT
[Recording Of Testimonies Of Child Witnesses Through VC] NALSA To Pay Rs. 1500 Per Day As Honorarium To Remote Point Co-ordinators : Supreme Court
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On Monday (24th January), while hearing the matter pertaining to the virtual recording of testimonies of child victims/witnesses of human trafficking who are required to travel across states or districts to give evidence in Trial Courts, the Supreme Court had asked National Legal Services Authority ("NALSA") to bear the honorarium to be paid to the 'remote point co-ordinators' (RPCs)....

On Monday (24th January), while hearing the matter pertaining to the virtual recording of testimonies of child victims/witnesses of human trafficking who are required to travel across states or districts to give evidence in Trial Courts, the Supreme Court had asked National Legal Services Authority ("NALSA") to bear the honorarium to be paid to the 'remote point co-ordinators' (RPCs). On Tuesday (1st February), Amicus Curiae, Mr. Gaurav Agarwal, who was also appearing for NALSA, apprised the Court that it is willing to take care of the payment of honorarium to the RPCs and, if need be, to provide legal assistance to child witnesses when they come for recording of testimonies.

"We requested the Ld. Amicus Curiae who also appears on behalf of NALSA to get instructions regarding the willingness of NALSA to bear the expenditure relating to the payment to be made to the RPC. The Ld. Amicus on instructions from NALSA suggested the following :

  1. NALSA will pay Rs. 1500/day to RPC whenever RPC are required to examine the child witnesses through VC;
  2. NALSA would provide legal assistance to children on the days they come for examination, if the child is not otherwise represented by Counsel."

A Bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai upon consideration of the honorarium paid to the RPCs during the pilot project fixed an honorarium of Rs. 1500 per day payable to the remote point coordinators engaged in recording of testimonies of child witnesses.

"Direction was sought by Ld. Amicus Curiae about the source of payment of honorarium to RPCs. We were informed that a daily honorarium of Rs. 1500 was paid to the RPCs in the pilot project. We are of the opinion that the RPCs should be paid Rs. 1500 honorarium."

The Bench directed that the final draft of the Standard Operating Procedure ("SOP") as presented by Senior Advocate, Ms. Anitha Shenoy appearing on behalf of the Petitioner, ought to be followed in all criminal trials, where child witnesses who are not residing near the court points are to be examined.

"We have carefully examined the draft SOP which contains minute details about steps to be taken for recording the testimony of child witnesses at remote points. Responses have been filed by High Courts. There is no objection by the High Court to the SOP being put in practice with immediate effect. The SOP…shall be used in all criminal trials where child witnesses not residing near court points are examined…We direct the RPCs to ensure that the child friendly practices are adopted..."

On the last date of hearing, Ms. Shenoy had argued that Section 312 of the CrPC provides for payment to be made to the witnesses and the same can be utilised for the payment of honorarium. The Bench agreed that -

"We are in agreement with Ms. Shenoy that Section 312 of CrPC empowers the criminal court to direct the Govt. to pay the expenses of witnesses attending trial or other proceedings."

On the request of Ms. Shenoy, the Bench clarified that in order to uphold the principles of privacy the judicial officers at both the remote point as well as the court point should ensure that such recording of evidence shall be in camera, wherever required.

"The concerned Judicial Officer at the remote point and the trial court shall ensure that the recording of evidence shall be in camera, wherever necessary."

The Bench appreciated the stand taken by NALSA to strengthen the Video Conferencing facilities in the offices of the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha and Assam. It asked NALSA to ensure that the Video Conferencing facility available in DLSAs are utilised for recording of statements of child witnesses when Video Conferencing facility is not available in the Court Complex.

The writ petition is to be next listed in the first week of May, 2022.

[Case Title: Santosh Vishwanath Shinde v. Union of India| W.P.(Crl.) No. 274 of 2020]

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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