Day 3 Arguments: 1 August 2019

A three judge bench of the Supreme Court is monitoring the implementation of POCSO nation-wide. The bench comprises Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose.

 

Today, it narrowed its focus to an individual matter - the letter written by the victim in the Unnao Rape case. The court extended the scope of its suo moto writ petition to include issues of victim compensation, victim protection and witness protection. It issued orders for the transfer of four criminal cases regarding the rape and subsequent victimisation, payment of compensation to the victim, CRPF protection for the victim’s family and her lawyer and his family, and speedy investigation and trial in the fifth case regarding the accident.

 

Background

On 12 July, the Supreme Court took note of inordinate delays in investigation and trial of child sexual assault cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Therefore, it instituted a writ petition on its own motion to draft guidelines and issue directions for the speedy disposal of these cases. Senior Advocate V Giri is assisting the court as Amicus Curiae in collecting information and suggesting draft guidelines. On 15 July, the court directed Amicus Curiae V Giri to collect information about the total pending POCSO cases in each district. On 25 July, the court directed the Union government to release funds for setting up special courts in every district with a 100 or more pending cases under the POCSO Act. The court also ordered the setting up of child-friendly panels and directed special courts to begin functioning within 60 days.

 

On 12 July, the Unnao rape case victim’s family wrote a letter to the Supreme Court, requesting its intervention to protect them from victimisation and ensure investigation and trial into the incidents of intimidation. On 31 July, media reports stated that this letter was received by the Supreme Court Registry on 17 July. Further, on 31 July, upon mention and urgent listing by Amicus Curiae V Giri, the court listed the matter to be heard on 1 August and directed the Secretary General of the Supreme Court to explain why the letter had not been brought to the attention of the Chief Justice or the bench until 4 pm on 30 July.

 

Today’s Hearing

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta began today’s hearing by outlining the list of five cases involved in the matter. The first case was filed by the victim alleging rape and a chargesheet has been filed. The second case implicated the victim’s father in the Arms Act, 1959. He was arrested on 4 April and died in police custody on 9 April. The third case was filed by the victim’s mother alleging the murder of the victim’s father. The fourth case was filed by the victim’s mother alleging gangrape by associates of the accused. No chargesheet has been filed in the fourth case yet. The fifth case concerns the accident which critically endangered the lives of the victim and her lawyer, and killed two of the victim’s family members. The Solicitor General then requested a month’s time to file the report.

 

Chief Justice Gogoi stated that the report must be completed within 1 week and a chargesheet must be filed. He enquired whether the victim, who is on a ventilator in Lucknow, could be transferred to AIIMS Delhi for treatment.

 

Amicus Curiae V Giri stated that the victim’s lawyer and cousin are also in a critical condition. He stated that the victim’s mother was raped, while the victim’s father was arrested without reason and died in police custody. He asked why no protection had been given to the victim’s family and urged investigating into the father’s custodial death. Submitting that family members also need to be given protection, he requested the court to enlarge the scope of its suo moto writ petition to include victim and witness protection.

 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta stated that rules were in place for witness protection under the POCSO Act and requested the court to follow the law.

 

Chief Justice Gogoi rhetorically asked what the authorities were doing to maintain law in the country. He remarked that the state of affairs in the country was disturbing and asked if the court must do nothing to correct the situation.

 

Amicus Curiae V Giri asked how the police could allow such a situation to arise and stated that exemplary compensation must be given to the victim. He further asked for police protection for the victim, lawyer and their families.

 

Today’s Order

  1. All five cases have been transferred from CBI Court, Lucknow to the court of District Judge Dharmesh Sharma, Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi.
  2. Investigation in the fifth case must be expedited and completed within 7 days. The investigating authority may take one additional week to complete investigation, if exceptional circumstances prevail.
  3. The trial judge must ensure completion of trial of all five cases within 45 days of the trial commencing.
  4. The victim was deemed medically fit to be airlifted to Delhi by doctors. The counsel for the victim’s family must inform the court of their views on transferring the victim to Delhi.
  5. Amicus Curiae V Giri must inform the court of the lawyer’s family’s views on shifting him out of Lucknow for more advanced medical treatment.
  6. The State of Uttar Pradesh must pay Rs 25 lakh compensation to the victim by the next day (2 August).
  7. Security and protection must immediately be extended by the Central Reserve Police Force to the victim, her lawyer, her mother, her 4 siblings, her uncle and his immediate family. A compliance report must be submitted to court the next day (2 August) through the Central Agency.
  8. Counsel for Uttar Pradesh state must inform the court if the victim’s uncle, presently lodged in Raebareli jail, needs to be moved out of the jail for reasons of his security.
  9. The scope of the writ petition is extended to include issues of victim compensation, victim protection and witness protection. Amicus Curiae V Giri may make suggestions and avail the services of the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan to assist the court.
  10. An inquiry must be conducted by the Secretary General of the court to check if there were lapses or negligence of any member in placing the victim’s family’s letter before the Chief Justice. The inquiry must be completed within 7 days and will be supervised by a Chief Justice- nominated sitting judge of the court.

 

The next hearing is tomorrow, 2 August, where the court will monitor the implementation of its orders. 

(Court reporting by Srujana Bej)