NEW DELHI: With more than 36,000 cases of sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act pending at the trial stage in the country, it will take several years to dispose of the pending cases even as new ones pile up.
According to Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s NGO, at the pace at which special courts are conducting trials in POCSO cases, Gujarat will dispose of the cases only by 2071, and Arunachal Pradesh will take time till the year 2117 to do so.
In the case of Delhi, even if no fresh POCSO cases are lodged, the current child victims will not see their cases conclude before 2029.
As far as the conviction rate in POCSO cases is concerned, it remained constant at 30 per cent during 2014-16.
According to an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court, out of 5,217 POCSO cases over three years, from 2012 to 2015, 575 cases, or 11 per cent, were pending.
Citing the protracted delays, Bhuvan Ribhu from BBA cited the example of the brutal gang rape of a five-year-old girl in east Delhi in 2013. The trial started the same year, but the accused was declared juvenile in 2017. In March this year, the High Court sent the matter back to the trial court to again determine juvenility. The trial court in July declared the accused to be a major at the time of the offence.
Earlier this year, the apex court directed all High Courts in the country to set up a judicial committee comprising three or such other numbers of judges to monitor and regulate trials pending before the special courts constituted under the Act to exclusively try cases of sexual assault on children aged up to 12 years. The High Courts were directed to issue timely instructions to these courts to fast-track trials by following a policy of no adjournments and by strictly following the procedure laid down under the Act.
Section 35 of the Act mandates completion of the trial as early as possible. According to recent amendments, investigation by the police is to be completed in two months, the trial within the next two months, and disposal of appeals in six months.
Courts trying POCSO offences have to provide a child-friendly atmosphere to give the victims confidence to testify against the perpetrators of the crimes.