Day 21 Arguments: 6 March 2020

In 2019, the Court took suo moto cognisance of the increasing number of POCSO cases and their poor disposal rates in courts. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, or 'POCSO', aims to ensure speedy justice by establishing special procedures for reporting cases and instituting special courts to hear cases. It specifies that POCSO cases must be disposed of within a year of the offence being reported.

 

Today, the Bench comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose took note of how various States were implementing the Court's earlier directions. It listed the matter for 24 March to address the following issues: timelines for deciding cases, training for special public prosecutors and a scheme for payment of compensation to victims.

 

Various States fail to file affidavits

The Bench noted that the States of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan and the National Capital Territory of New Delhi had failed to file affidavits, as specified in the Court's Order on 16 December 2019. It directed these States to file their affidavits within 10 days. It added that the Chief Secretaries of all States who failed to comply would have to appear at the next date of hearing. 

 

The State of Punjab asked whether it could rely upon the same affidavit it had filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The Bench allowed it to do so.

 

Madhya Pradesh HC requests relaxation of POCSO requirements

The Bench also briefly heard the interim application filed by the High Court (HC) of Madhya Pradesh. The High Court requested a minor relaxation of the requirement for setting up of exclusive POCSO courts. The HC submitted that at the Tehsil level normal sessions judges were trying POCSO cases. The Bench allowed the relaxation. 

 

Vague affidavits

Amicus Curiae Senior Advocate V. Giri submitted that some of the affidavits filed by States (in response to the 12 December Order) were unclear. He highlighted that the affidavits were ambiguous about the following: (a) whether they had an appropriate ratio of special courts to pending POCSO cases per district; (b) whether Special Public Prosecutors were exclusive to POCSO.

 

The Court directed the States to clarify these ambiguities within 10 days. It warned that it would otherwise assume that the States had failed to comply with the Court's directions. In addition, it asked Sr. Adv. Giri to submit a fresh comparative chart. 

 

With this, it listed the matter for 24 March. It indicated that it would like to consider the following issues in the next hearing: timelines for deciding cases, training for special public prosecutors and a scheme for payment of compensation to victims.

(Court reporting by Avinash Amarnath)