It has to be pointed out at the beginning itself that with over 30,000 cases of child sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 pending at the trial stage in Uttar Pradesh alone which is notorious as the “rape and crime capital of India” as was slammed by former UN Secretary General Ban ki moon, the Supreme Court on May 1, 2018 finally decided to step on the gas and in the landmark case titled Alakh Alok Srivastava vs Union of India & Ors [Writ Petition (C) No. 76 of 2018) very rightly issued elaborate guidelines for timely completion of investigation and trial in POCSO offences. The Supreme Court ordered the High Courts to ensure that all cases pertaining to sexual offences against children are fast-tracked so that trials are completed . It also said that investigations of pending cases should be completed of a first information report being registered.
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that the Bench was hearing the PIL filed by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava who drew the singular attention of the Apex Court to the shocking and ghastly incident of rape of an eight-month-old girl by her 28-year-old cousin in Shakur Basti of North-West Delhi in January, seeking guidelines to ensure that investigation and trial of cases involving rape of children below the age of 12 years is completed from the date of lodging of the FIR. Since then, the child had to undergo two corrective surgeries to treat her ruptured private parts. Alakh complained about poor implementation of the POCSO Act by supplying list of pendency of cases State-wise except three States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Rajasthan. The Apex Court noted that of all States, UP topped the pendency chart with 30,884 cases pending at various stages of trial. Maharashtra followed with 16,099 cases pending and Madhya Pradesh with 10,117 cases pending.
1. The High Courts shall ensure that the cases registered under the POCSO Act are tried and disposed of by the Special Courts and the presiding officers of the said courts are sensitized in the matters of child protection and psychological response.
2. The Special Courts, as conceived, be established, if not already done, and be assigned the responsibility to deal with the cases under the POCSO Act.
3. The instructions should be issued to the Special Courts to fast-track the disposal of matters by not granting any unnecessary adjournments and following the procedure laid down in the POCSO Act and thus complete the trial in a time bound manner or within a specific time frame under the Act..
4. The Chief Justices of the High Courts are requested to constitute a Committee of three Judges to regulate and monitor the progress of the trials under the POCSO Act. The High Courts where three Judges are not available the Chief Justice of the said courts shall constitute one Judge Committee.
5. The Director General of Police or the officer of equivalent rank of the States shall constitute a Special Task Force which shall ensure that the investigation is properly conducted and witnesses are produced on the dates fixed before the trial courts.
6. Adequate steps shall be taken by the High Courts to provide child friendly atmosphere in the Special Courts keeping in view the provisions of the POCSO Act so that the spirit of the Act is observed.
Having said this, it must be said that just death penalty alone is not enough. Death penalty must be executed within the shortest possible time and not after 30 or 40 years because it then loses its deterrence power which is exactly what is happening in India even in high profile cases. We all know how the 1993 Mumbai bomb blast case in which more than 257 people died and many others were injured lingered on for 25 years and then the decision came from the lower court and some accused have already died a natural death and many have fled the country! This must stop in our country once and for all if the offenders are to be deterred from committing repeated crimes in India and then escaping to foreign countries with impunity!
Quoting a Delhi Police report of May 2016, Srivastava had told the Apex Court that 5,217 cases were registered by it between 2012 and 2015 under POCSO Act. He also revealed that, “Out of this, investigation is still pending for more than a year in 251 cases, for two years in 90 cases and for more than three years in 14 such cases. Such inordinate delay in completion of investigation and consequent incessant delay in completion of trial are defeating the very purpose of POCSO Act.”
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.