Bench directs State government to approach Centre for funds within a week
The Supreme Court has fixed a deadline of January 30, 2020 for the establishment of special courts for exclusive trial of offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act of 2012 in Tamil Nadu. It has ordered that at least one special court be established in every judicial district that had 100 to 300 pending Pocso cases and two special courts in districts that had more than 300 pending cases.
A Bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose also ordered that the special courts be established with all infrastructure including a child-friendly environment and vulnerable witness court rooms.
Appointment of presiding officers, special public prosecutors, court staff and support persons should be completed before the deadline.
The interim order was passed on a suo motu public interest litigation petition taken up by the court early this year for expediting trial in Pocso cases in all courts throughout the country.
The court had directed the Centre to frame a scheme for 100% funding to all States and Union Territories for setting up such special courts, which shall not deal with any case except those related to sexual offences against children.
It also called for details from the Registrar Generals of all High Courts regarding the pendency of such cases within their territorial jurisdiction.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court was informed that Tamil Nadu had 32 judicial districts, of which 16 had more than 100 Pocso cases and eight had more than 200 cases.
The State government stated that it had notified Mahila Courts in every district to double up as Pocso courts too.
Disapproving of such a practice, the Bench, led by Justice Gupta, said it would defeat the apex court’s objective of speeding up investigation and trial in cases related to sexual offences against children.
It noted with concern that over two-third of the Pocso were pending trial for more than a year and around investigation had not been completed in 20% of such cases.
Therefore, only special courts would be a solution to the problem, it felt.
16 Pocso courts
When it was reported by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, that the Tamil Nadu government had taken steps to establish as many as 16 special courts for Pocso cases, but had not sought funds from the Centre, the judges ordered: “We direct the State of Tamil Nadu to approach the Union Government within a week from today setting out the requirements of Pocso courts in terms of the orders passed by us today.
“We expect the Union of India to look into the matter for release of funds.”
In so far as the Union Territory of Puducherry was concerned, the judges said that no orders need be passed at the present stage.
However, they issued individual directions with respect to 17 other States in the country, including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Telangana and adjourned further hearing on the suo motu PIL petition to January 8.
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