Day 16 Arguments: 16 December 2019
On 13 November, the last time the mater came up before the then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s Bench, he had directed the matter to be listed before Justice Deepak Gupta’s bench.
On 16 December, Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose passed a detailed order with directions to State Governments on the setting up of exclusive courts for the trial of cases under Prevention of Children against Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO). This was in furtherance of the July 25 2019 order, when the same Bench had directed all States to ensure that an exclusive POCSO court be set up within 60 days in every district where more than 100 cases have been registered under the POCSO Act.
In today’s order, the Bench took stock of the measures which had been adopted so far by the State Governments as well as the Union towards the establishment of exclusive POCSO courts. It further issued directions to those States which had failed to set up the POCSO courts.
Parameters for setting up exclusive POCSO courts
In today’s order, the Bench clarified certain parameters which need to be accounted for while setting up these courts. As per them, (i) in Judicial Districts where more than 100 POCSO cases were pending, at least one exclusive Court had to be set up, (ii) in Judicial Districts where more than 300 POCSO cases were pending, at least two exclusive Courts had to be established.
The Bench then assessed whether each of the States had managed to achieve these targets. Depending on the extent of their achievements, the Bench issued further directions, including to complete the setting up of Courts within a set time period.
Exemplary Costs on Madhya Pradesh
A direction which stood out was the decision to impose exemplary costs on Madhya Pradesh. This was on account of the reason that the State had not bothered to file its response to Court’s earlier orders and was not even represented by a counsel on the day of the hearing. Observing that it was “dealing with a serious issue of child right and the State cannot abdicate its responsibility”, Court went on to impose costs of Rs.10 lakhs. It further directed that the money be deposited with the Madhya Pradesh State Legal Services Authority towards enhancing facilities in POCSO courts.
Thereafter, the Court directed that the State, in consultation with the Chief Justice, complete the setting up of the Courts by 31 January and ensure their functioning by 1 March.
Special orders in case of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal
Keeping in mind the “extremely deplorable state of affairs” with regard to Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, Court passed special orders for these two States. Court noted that no efforts had been taken by these States in furtherance of their orders and this may lead to a breakdown of Rule of Law. It then directed the following:
“One exclusive POCSO Court in districts with up to 300 POCSO cases pending;
two exclusive POCSO Courts in districts with 301 to 600 POCSO cases pending;
three exclusive POCSO Courts in districts with 601 to 1000 POCSO cases pending; and
four exclusive POCSO Courts in districts with 1000 or more POCSO cases pending”
The Court will now take up the issues regarding Special Public Prosecutor for POCSO cases and facilities in Forensic Science Laboratories on 8 January.