Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala High Court has issued detailed guidelines for investigation and trial of POCSO cases, including special training to officers so they are sensitized in dealing with such sensitive cases. The court has also asked for all nodal agencies dealing with such cases to undergo proper briefing and training. The court’s effort was in an effort to prevent further victimization of victims during the process.
Justice PB Suresh Kumar issued the guidelines in an appeal. the following are some key guidelines:
- The state government should take immediate steps to make One-Stop Support Centres operational, as directed by the Supreme Court so that victims need not go anywhere else.
- The state government should appoint a nodal officer within two months to coordinate various departments in implementing the POCSO Act. The officer should resolve all issues and act as single-point contact with the government.
- The nodal officer should coordinate the training of various stakeholders, including the police, in juvenile justice principles. Judges of POCSO courts are also to be trained, including training of the UNICEF. Special prosecutors should also be trained.
- The state government should consider creating the post of Child Protection Officers and Child Welfare Officers in the police as a separate cadre so that they will act in that capacity wherever they are posted. If not, ensure that such officers are posted in every police station.
- The state government must immediately fill vacancies in forensic science laboratories so that investigation and trials in POCSO cases are not affected.
- The state police chief has to designate a woman IPS officer in every district to ensure that cases under the POCSO Act adhere to the Act’s provisions. This officer is to ensure that investigation is only conducted by officers trained in juvenile justice principles.
- Statements of victims must be audio or video-recorded by a magistrate or a police officer.
- The designated IPS officer is to ensure that evidence to prove sexual abuse through physical, as well as behavioral indicators, are also collected in every case, that medical evidence is consistent with statements of the children, that satisfactory evidence to prove guilt has been collected, and that statement of the child is voluntary. Experts in psychology and psychiatry are to be included as witnesses.
The guidelines were issued by the court after considering submissions made by senior public prosecutor Suman Chakravarthy, KELSA’s counsel S Manu, and advocates Ranjith Marar, Sandhya Raju, and CP Udayabhanu. The statements were filed in the case by Inspector General of Police, Crime Branch and director of Women and Child Development Department of the state government.
-India Legal Bureau