The Bombay High Court on Thursday issued guidelines for effective compliance with the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) so as to ensure victim’s participation in various stages of the judicial process.
The division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni passed these guidelines on a PIL filed by Arjun Malge, inviting the Court’s attention to the non-compliance with the provisions of the POCSO Act and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) stipulating the minor victim’s participation in the judicial process.
The PIL stated, “The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012) was enacted with a view to protect children from sexual abuse and to ensure speedy justice to the minor victim of sexual assault. Section 40 r/w Rule 4 of the POCSO Act,2012 envisages the right of the minor victims to participate in the justice dispensing process in a fair manner and thereby requires that a victim be informed about every court proceeding,”
Advocate Somasekhar Sundaresan, Counsel for petitioner alleged that even after the 2018 amendment to CrPC, the bail applications moved by the accused in cases falling within the POCSO Act, neither the police nor the lower court were taking appropriate steps to inform the victims/ complainants for the same.
The Counsel stated that not only were the practice directions upheld by the Court, but they were also directed to be applied to offences under the POCSO Act.
The Court ordered that if the victim’s family could not be put to notice regarding the court’s proceedings then the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) will give the court reasons in writing.
“If there is an application moved by the prosecution or the defence in a POCSO case, it shall be the duty of the SJPU to inform the relevant court about the service of such application and notice of hearing along with proof of service,” said the Court.
The bench observed that before such an application is heard, the trial court must ascertain the status of service of notice, and if it so found that the notice has not been issued, the court may make such reasoned order as it may deem fit to secure ends of justice.
It was clarified by the Court that if the victim’s family does not appear despite effective notice, the Court may proceed to hear the matter.
The Court directed that a copy of the judgment be circulated to all presiding officers of all Sessions Courts in Maharashtra, the Director-General and Superintendent of Maharashtra Police, Director of Prosecution, State of Maharashtra, and Maharashtra State Legal Services Authorities.
The Maharashtra Commission for Protection of Child Rights through its affidavit agreed with the submissions made by the petitioner.