KOCHI: The High Court on Wednesday directed the state government to appoint a woman IPS officer in every district to oversee the investigation into the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act cases and establishment of One-Stop Support Centres as directed by the Supreme Court to protect victims and plug gaps in the implementation of the provisions of Pocso.
Justice P B Suresh Kumar issued the guidelines after the High Court had noticed certain fundamental flaws during investigation into the Pocso cases. The court also found that while dealing with a Pocso-related cases, the victims were deprived of their valuable rights to avail themselves of legal aid and various other benefits.
The court directed the state police chief to designate a woman IPS officer in every district to ensure that the investigations into Pocso cases are conducted, strictly adhering to the provisions of the Pocso Act. If a woman IPS officer is not available in a district, the state police chief can designate an available IPS officer in her place. The IPS officer so designated shall ensure that the investigation into the cases are conducted only by the officers trained in Juvenile Justice Principles and also the statement of children are recorded by such trained officers. Besides, statements of the children should be recorded when they are physically and psychologically fit.
The officer shall ensure that evidence to prove the sexual abuse through physical as well as behavioural indicators are also collected in every case. The officer shall also ensure, before filing the final report in every case, that satisfactory evidence is collected to arrive at a conclusion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused, and if the case is built solely on the statement of the child, the officer should also ensure that the statement of the child is being given voluntarily .The officer should also see to it that the medical evidence collected is consistent with the statements of the children.
The court also ordered the establishment of One-Stop Centres in every district as directed by the Supreme Court. Moreover, the government was asked to appoint a nodal officer within two months to coordinate the activities of various government departments towards implementation of the provisions of the Pocso Act including the training of the various stakeholders.
According to the High Court, the vacancies in the Forensic Science Laboratories in the state should be filled without delay to prevent manpower shortage in the labs from undermining investigations and trials in cases. The state was directed to take appropriate steps to appoint competent special public prosecutor (SPP) in courts dealing with Pocso cases. The SPPs should be imparted proper training either directly or in cooperation with the Kerala Judicial Academy.The court directed the government to take necessary steps forthwith to enable the Kerala Legal Services Authority to disburse compensation to victims under the Kerala Victim Compensation Scheme 2017.