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The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the setting up of the special designated courts in all districts in the country where 100 or more cases have been set up under the POCSO Act.

The apex courts said these courts will be centrally funded and will have to be set up within 60 days. The Supreme Court also ordered the Centre to appoint sensitised prosecutors to deal with sexual assault cases against child. Additionally, the top court directed the chief secretaries of states, Union Territories to ensure timely submission of forensic reports in sexual assault cases against child. The apex court has given the Centre 30 days to apprise it about compliance of its order on exclusive courts to deal with assault cases against children.

The top court noted that collection of further nationwide data on child rape cases would delay implementation of POCSO law. It said the suggestion of amicus curiae V Giri to set up a forensic lab in each district for expeditious disposal of POCSO cases can wait, and added that in the meantime, the state governments can ensure timely submission of such reports for expeditious conclusion of trial.

In view of the “alarming rise” in the number of rape incidents against children in the country, the Supreme Court had a week ago taken suo motu cognisance of the matter and decided take remedial measures to thwart the crime. A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose appointed senior advocate V Giri as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist it in framing guidelines on the kind of directions that can be issued to states on infrastructure and video-recording of the proceedings.

It made clear that no third party except Giri and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta would be allowed to intervene in the matter saying that otherwise nothing can happen in such a matter.  The bench directed the Registry to register the case as a writ petition titled as “In-re Alarming Rise in The Number of Reported Child Rape Incidents” and present the suggestions by Monday for issuance of directions.

It may be mentioned that the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier this week approved to amend the POCSO Act to make punishment more stringent, including death penalty for committing sexual crimes against children. The amendments also provide for levy of fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography.

The court had asked Giri to prepare a detailed report suggesting ways for speedy investigation and trial of child rape cases. The government, represented by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, also intervened with an assurance to assist the court in the endeavour.

Referring to the data on sexual crimes against children, the court’s report said that 24,212 FIRs were filed across India from January 1 to June 30 this year. Of these, 11,981 were still being probed by the police. Charge sheets had been filed in 12,231 cases, though trials had commenced only in 6,449 cases. The trial courts had till now decided 911 cases — that is, about 4% of the total cases registered.

–India Legal Bureau

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