Acquittals in Pocso cases 7 times higher than convictions in AP: Study
Of the total POCSO cases disposed in Andhra Pradesh, only 7.25% of them ended in convictions, while 56.15% were acquittals.
Published: 02nd December 2022 06:05 AM | Last Updated: 02nd December 2022 08:04 AM | A+A A-
VIJAYAWADA: At 56.15%, acquittals in the disposal of POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) cases is seven times higher than convictions in Andhra Pradesh, a study has revealed.
Justice, Access and Lowering Delays in India (JALDI), along with Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, in collaboration with the Data Evidence for Justice Reform (DE JURE) programme at the World Bank conducted the study to examine the implementation of the POCSO Act as it completed a decade of being passed by Parliament.
Titled ‘A Decade of POCSO Developments, Challenges and Insights from Judicial Data’, the study has been conducted based on data collected from eCourts between 2012 and February 2021. The report was released on November 26. Besides being the largest study of eCourts data pertaining to the POCSO Act, it is a first-of-its-kind study in terms of the sheer volume of eCourts data that has been analysed.
Of the total POCSO cases disposed in Andhra Pradesh, only 7.25% of them ended in convictions, while 56.15% were acquittals. It also found that the cases involved approximately 21% of consensual relationships. The study revealed that though required number of special courts had been sanctioned for Andhra Pradesh, no Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) was exclusively designated for POCSO cases. The existing PPs and Additional PPs were simply designated as SPPs through a notification.
It takes 509.78 days for a POCSO case to be disposed of
The report also stated that 96% judgements in Andhra Pradesh compromised the identity of the victim in comparison to 86% in Maharashtra and 77.32% in Assam. Further, the State has disposed of over 60% cases filed till the cut-off date for data collection and it spends a negligible amount of time (less than 10%) on the evidence stage, while Delhi spends 593.03 days on average.
On an average, it takes 509.78 days (nearly one year and five months) for a POCSO case to be disposed of as against the one year time period stipulated by Section 35 of the Act. The average case length in AP increased from 122 days in 2012 to 611.2 days in 2014. There was a sharp fall in 2015 (130.01 days), whereas in 2016, the case length steadily grew and reached 604.99 days in 2020. It may be noted that 2020 was when the pandemic struck the world.
Less than two evidence hearings per case were conducted in the State even as eight of the erstwhile 13 districts reported over 100 POCSO cases. It may be noted that the Central Government had sanctioned eight special courts to AP.
The study also found that the State requires the victim to cooperate with the police, prosecution and trial to be eligible for the grant of Victim Compensation Schemes (VCS) even though the POCSO Act and Rules do not link the payment of compensation to the child’s testimony in court. So far, the aid has been given in approximately three per cent of cases only in the State as against 5% in Karnataka, 9% in Delhi and 22% in Assam.
Secretary of HELP, an NGO, N Rammohan said, “Due to lack of proper (monthly or quarterly) review mechanism in the State, the accused escape from punishment. The NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) or SCPCR (State Commission for Protection of Child Rights), who have powers to review, have not conducted any review till date.”
Panel advocate of Legal Services (Vijayawada), Chandragiri Radha Kumari said, “Child Welfare Committees (CWCs), District Child Protection Units (DCPUs), SCPCR, NCPCR and the police are not playing their role in resolving POCSO cases, hence the convictions, too, are poor in AP when compared to other states.”
The main reason for lower conviction rate is that there is no proper training for all stakeholders in POCSO cases, she added. SCPCR chairman Kesali Apparao said, “The registration of POCSO cases in the State has increased after the establishment of Disha Police stations. Soon, we will announce a plan of action regarding continuous reviews on POCSO cases.”
DISPOSAL OF CASES DIVIDED INTO FOUR CATEGORIES
Disposal types have been divided into four categories: conviction, acquittal, transfer and others (comprising disposed, allowed, dismissal, miscellaneous and unclassified categories). As per the report, transfers account for a significant proportion of the total cases disposed of by courts, particularly in states like Tamil Nadu (58.64%), Rajasthan (38.99%), Andhra Pradesh (33.51%) and Bihar (29.51%).