Friday, September 29, 2023

Supreme Court defers hearing in child rape cases to next week

On 12 July, 2019, the Supreme Court took note of an increasing number of child rape cases and their poor disposal rate in courts.

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday postponed the hearing for next week in a suo motu petition registered under the caption “RE: ALARMING RISE IN THE NUMBER OF REPORTED CHILD RAPE INCIDENTS”

While hearing the petition, the bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices A.S. Bopanna, and V. Ramasubramanian asked the Uttar Pradesh government that “ Why don’t you give protection to the Petitioners?”

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati appeared for Uttar Pradesh has informed the court that as per the directions issued on the last date of hearing to protect the mother and siblings of the deceased, Mahendra, 16 people were given protection.

Then Bench asked Bhati to file the Reply. To this, he replied that the state will file the report in a sealed cover till next week. Thereafter, the bench adjourned the matter till next week.

The court on March 6, 2021 directed the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India to assist the court in order to formulate a national scheme for payment of compensation to victims of offences under the POCSO Act.

On 12 July, 2019, the Supreme Court took note of an increasing number of child rape cases and their poor disposal rate in courts. On its own motion, the court instituted a petition to issue guidelines and directions to prevent delay. It appointed senior Counsel V. Giri as the Amicus Curiae to assist in formulating directions.

In 2012, the Parliament enacted the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The Act aims to ensure speedy justice by establishing special procedures for reporting cases and instituting special courts to hear cases. It requires case disposal within a year of the offence being reported.

Despite these legislative provisions, the Supreme Court noted that as on 12 July, trial was completed in only 911 of the 24,212 child sexual abuse cases registered in India from 1 January to 30 June 2019.

The Supreme Court permitted the Union government to intervene in the matter and provide assistance to the court. However, it barred all other third parties from intervening in the matter out of concern that their interventions may halt progress.

On 15 July, 2019, the Supreme Court directed  Amicus Curiae Senior Advocate V. Giri to collect information about the total number of POCSO cases pending in each district, within 10 days. The Registrar of the Supreme Court will assist him, the Court said.

On 25 July, Amicus Curiae V. Giri submitted a detailed report for the speedy investigation and trial of child rape cases. The court directed the Union government to release funds for the establishment of special courts in every district with 100 or more pending cases under the POCSO Act. It directed that the special courts be set up within 60 days.

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In an unexpected turn of events, on 31 July, the court tagged the Unnao rape matter to this case. It took cognizance of a letter written by the Unnao rape victim’s mother, detailing victimization and intimidation. On 1 August, it issued directions for the speedy investigation and fair trial of all cases in the Unnao matter. It also expanded the scope of this Suo Motu petition to include issues of victim compensation, victim protection and witness protection.

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