By LE Desk

Mumbai, April 9: The Bombay High Court on Thursday laid down guidelines and directives to be followed by the prosecution and courts dealing with cases under the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The guidelines, issued by a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni, are meant for effective implementation of the law for sexual offences against children to ensure that the right of the minor victim/survivor to participate in judicial proceedings is protected.

Referring to the provisions of law and the need for effective victim representation, the bench observed, “It is clear that a robust mechanism recognizing the need to protect children from the offences falling within the purview of this (POCSO) legislation and the method and manner to deal judicially such offences, is prescribed as a part of the administration of criminal justice…there is also an entitlement of such persons (victim’s family/guardian/counsel) to be made aware of the filing of applications and the hearings scheduled on such applications at the various stages of the proceedings”, The Indian Express reported.

The bench on Thursday passed the judgment on a PIL filed by activist Arjun Malge, who works with child victims of sexual abuse and their families in the city, complaining about lack of implementation of certain provisions of POCSO Act.

The state government submitted that it was not adversarial to the petition and the court may pass relevant guidelines.

In light of the submissions by advocate Somasekhar Sundaresan for Malge, the court said that in the event of application made on behalf of the prosecution in POCSO cases, office of the public prosecutor will have to issue a notice of hearing of such application to child’s family/guardian or legal counsel along with relevant documents for ‘effective participation’ of the victim in the proceedings.

It added that it shall be the duty of a police officer to confirm to the competent court about service of such a notice to the child’s family and in case the service of notice was not possible, the reasons for the same should be conveyed by the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) to the relevant court in writing.

The HC said that the appropriate court, before hearing the prosecution’s application, must ascertain whether the notice was served to the child’s family, and in case it is not issued, the court may make reasoned order to secure ‘ends of justice,’ taking into account any emerging circumstances that will require hearing application in absence of child’s family or representatives.

“In the event, despite issuance of notice, the child’s family, guardian or legal counsel, does not attend the hearing, the court may proceed without the presence of such notice, or issue another notice, as may be judicially determined appropriate,” the HC noted. The court said that the proceedings under the POCSO Act also deal with offences of rape under various provisions of section 376 of the Indian Penal Code and the notice to the victim shall also be issued in such cases as per rules.

The court said that its ruling shall be circulated to all presiding officers of sessions courts in the state, who shall forward it to courts dealing with POCSO cases along with police authorities.

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