NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed setting up of a centrally-funded designated court in each district having more than 100 FIRs under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to deal exclusively with cases of sexual offences against children.
"We would expect our above-stated directions to be implemented and exclusively designated courts to try offences under the POCSO Act, in terms of the above directions, to start functioning within 60 days from the date of the present order," a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, while asking the Centre and states to implement its direction.
In a slew of directions, the apex court also said that a short clip, intended to spread awareness about prevention of child abuse and prosecution of crimes against children, be screened in every movie hall and transmitted by various television channels at regular intervals.
The top court directed that the special court be funded by the Centre and take care of appointment of presiding officer, support persons, special public prosecutors, court staff and infrastructure, including the creation of a child-friendly environment and vulnerable witness courtrooms.
The court, which has on its own taken up the issue of an alarming rise in the number of rape cases against children, took note of a report which said that one of the major causes of hindrance in completing a timely trial of POCSO cases was a delay in receiving reports from forensic science laboratory (FSL).
The top court perused the report prepared by senior advocate V Giri, assisting it as an amicus curiae in the case, and said the suggestion that there should be designated FSL in every district of the country for the purposes of POCSO Act can be considered at a later stage.
"For the present, we direct the directors of the state forensic science laboratories and the concerned authority in the state government to ensure that the existing and available forensic science laboratories in each state will function in an effective manner insofar as analysis etc of the samples collected under the POCSO Act are concerned and reports of such analysis be sent promptly and without any delay," the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, said.
The bench directed the chief secretaries of all the states and union territories to ensure that its direction is complied with "forthwith".
"In each district of the country, if there are more than 100 cases under the POCSO Act, an exclusive/designated special court will be set up, which will try no other offence except those under the POCSO Act," the bench said.
"Such courts will be set up under a central scheme and will be funded by the central government, which fund will not only take care of the appointment of the presiding officer, but also the appointments of support persons, special public prosecutors, court staff and infrastructure, including creation of child-friendly environment and vulnerable witness court rooms, etc," it said.
The apex court said that while drawing up the panel of support persons in each district, which should not exceed a reasonable number keeping in mind the total number of cases, care should be taken to appoint people who are dedicated to the cause.
It said that apart from academic qualifications, such people should be oriented towards child rights and sensitive to the needs of a child and otherwise be child-friendly.
"The same standards would also apply in the matter of appointment of special public prosecutors," it said.
The bench accepted the suggestion of the amicus regarding screening of short clips in movie halls and directed the Ministry of Women and Child Development to implement it through its agencies.
The bench noted the submission of the amicus who said, "A short clip intended to spread an awareness of the subject in general, namely, prevention of child abuse and prosecution of crimes against children, should necessarily be screened in every movie hall and could also be transmitted by various television channels at regular intervals."
"A child helpline number should also be displayed not only in such clip but also at various other prominent places, in schools and other public places," the amicus said.
The bench passed the order after perusing the reports filed by the amicus and apex court registrar Surinder S Rathi, who was entrusted with the work of collating and collecting data regarding a number of POCSO cases.
"Both the reports contain several suggestions in respect of the core of the issue, namely, to ensure timely completion of investigations and consequential trials in the offences under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act," it noted.
"While, both the amicus curiae and Rathi, in their reports, have suggested that further time should be granted for collection of data in terms of the earlier order of this court, we are inclined to take a different view of the matter at this stage," the bench said.
The bench, which posted the matter for further hearing on September 26, asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to apprise it about the progress made in respect of the implementation of its directions after four weeks.