A short video clip with helpline numbers should be screened in movie halls across the country to create awareness about sexual assault cases against children, a lawyer suggested on Thursday, 25 July, and it was accepted by the Supreme Court.
The top court, which on 12 July had on its own taken note of the "alarming rise" in the number of rape incidents against children, directed the Centre on Thursday to set up a centrally-funded exclusive court in all districts where 100 or more cases have been registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Senior advocate V Giri, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, gave a slew of suggestions to effectively deal with child rape cases in the country to a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The bench accepted many of these including the need to show video clips in cinema halls to make people aware of plight of kids and legal and other remedies.
The clips should be played not just in move halls but also at various other prominent places, in schools and other public places, Giri suggested. The amicus curiae also said it must be ensured that sex education was included in the school's curriculum along with information about offences under the POCSO Act.
Giri said the cases should be registered immediately whenever an incident was reported and irrespective of further steps being taken during the investigation, immediate medical care must be given to the child.
“In fact, the priority must be for affording the child physical and mental care. The mental healthcare of the child is of utmost importance. The services of professionals who are definitely available in this regard should be called upon.”V Giri, senior advocate and amicus curiae
Giri also made the following observations and suggestions.
- Probes and subsequent trials in cases lodged under POCSO Act incurred considerable delay due to various reasons including that forensic laboratories not providing the forensic report to the police and the courts for months. "Collection of samples and preservation of the same are also of utmost importance. Forensic samples would become crucial in cases where the identity of the accused is seriously challenged. In many cases, the FSL Report takes between six to nine months from the time of registration of the crime," he said.
- Giri suggested establishment of special juvenile police unit under section 19 of the POCSO Act. He said, "It does not seem as if such units have been established so far. The investigating agency, preferably the Special Juvenile Police Unit, must necessarily be sensitised to the different skills that are required for a proper and effective investigation of the crimes under the POCSO Act. In this regard, the states should be called upon to ensure that there is a Special Juvenile Police Unit, at least one in every taluk in the district. Of course, the concerned Superintendent of Police of the district or the Commissioner, as the case may be in metropolitan areas, could be made the head of every such Special Juvenile Police Unit coming under his/her division."
- The contents of the FIR/complaint must be explained to the child in the language that he or she understands and this should be done at the earliest point of time. "It would be appropriate that a support person, preferably the one attached to the school where the child is studying, should be made aware of the process right from the beginning," he said.
- A vulnerable witness courtroom must necessarily be made part of the designated Special Court for trial of such cases and the presiding officer should be in a position to convey the statements made by the child through the support person during her examination, both chief and cross examination.
- Since realistically the examination of the child may not be over on any one given day, the child and his/her parents or relatives must be in a position to access the court premises independently.
- There are very few dedicated POCSO courts exclusively for the trial of such offences and it may ensured that there was a dedicated special court, at least one in every district in the country, which should not be burdened with any other matter.
- The child victim and his/her family should be made familiar with the surroundings of the special court, if necessary, more than once, before the trial commences.