Mumbai, July 2, 2022: Expressing its disappointment at the slow speed of progression of trials in cases under the POCSO Act, the Bombay High Court has sought a report giving details of how many POCSO Courts are designated as ‘Special Courts’ along with number of cases pending with these Courts in the state of Maharashtra as well as a report about the mandated compliances and appointment of Special Public Prosecutors in these Courts.
A Single-Judge Bench of Justice Bharati Dangre was informed by the Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) that the Special Courts created for the purpose of trying cases under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act are also entrusted with the charge of some other Court.
“At the instructions of the Investigating Officer, who attend the POCSO cases in Dindoshi Court, the learned APP states that only one Court is a Special Court for trying the offences under the POCSO Act, 2012, whereas other Courts which are assigned with POCSO cases are also required to take some other assignment,” the Bench noted, adding that “This is a disturbing feature and it’s veracity has to be first ascertained.”
The High Court made the observations while hearing a case pertaining to a 14-year-old girl who was allegedly “sexually ravaged” by the applicant in the present case and had consequently given birth to a baby. The High Court had on March 2, 2022 directed the Assistant Public Prosecutor to ascertain the status of the trial in the case.
“Today, the picture that comes before me is not only very bleak but disappointing too. It is only when the writ was issued by this Court, the trial commenced with a snail speed, with a result that as on date only one witness has been examined in Special Case No.420/2016. The statement of the victim girl itself came to be recorded after five years,” the Bench observed.
“The manner in which the Special Courts are proceeding with the POCSO trial, dealing with the offenders under the Special Statute, enacted with a specific avowed purpose, to prevent exploitation of minor/children and punish the offenders itself is being defeated by the procedure that is adopted by the Special Courts. It is informed that the Committees are constituted at the level of the High Court for over viewing the progress of the POCSO cases, but today, when the learned APP has placed before me the order sheet of the proceedings, with a request that 14 witnesses are yet to be examined, and therefore, the trial will take some time, I deem it appropriate to issue certain directions to be implemented by all POCSO Courts.”
The High Court thus directed the Principal Judge of the Court of Sessions at Greater Mumbai to submit a report about the pending POCSO cases in Mumbai and also giving the details about how many POCSO Courts are designated as ‘Special Courts’ along with number of cases pending with these Courts.
The In-charge Judge shall also submit a report about the appointment of Special Public Prosecutors in the POCSO Court as well as compliances which are mandated, including the interpreter or expert as contemplated u/s.38 of the POCSO Act, the HC said.
“On collating the necessary information, let the report be placed before this court within a period of one week,” the Bench noted.