Supreme Court of India
Alakh Alok Srivastava vs Union Of India on 1 May, 2018Author: . Dipak Misra 1 REPORTABLE IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION WRIT PETITION (C) No.76 OF 2018 ALAKH ALOK SRIVASTAVA     ……PETITIONER VERSUS UNION OF INDIA & ORS.                       …….RESPONDENTS                                                     J  U  D  G  M  E  N  T Dipak Misra, CJI.
  The instant Writ Petition initially raised two issues, first, the treatment of an eight month old female child who had become a victim   of   a   crime   committed   under   the   Protection   of   Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (for brevity, ‘the POCSO Act’) and the second, speedy trial and monitoring of the trials under the
Signature Not Verified POCSO Act in a child friendly court regard being had to the letter
Digitally signed by
CHETAN KUMAR
Date: 2018.05.02
19:23:58 IST
Reason:
and spirit of the provisions contained in the said Act.
2 2.   The   first   prayer   was   dealt   with   vide   orders   dated   31 st January,  2018,  1st  February, 2018 and 12th  March, 2018. It is necessary   to   note   here   that   regard   being   had   to   the   health condition   of   the   child,   a   team   of   doctors   from   the   All   India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) was sent to visit the patient at Kalawati Saran Children Hospital. That apart, a direction was issued   to   the   authorities   of   the   Delhi   State   Legal   Services Authority to accompany the team of doctors. 
3.  A team of doctors along with the competent authority of the Delhi   State   Legal   Services   Authority   examined   the   victim   and submitted   a   report.   The   relevant   part   of   the   report   reads   as follows:­ “Examination   revealed   8   month   old   female   infant alert and active, sharing bed with another girl child. She was breast feeding with normal vital signs (HR 120/min,   Respiratory   rate   32/min,   no   distress, saturation 98% on room air, temperature 36.8 C). Her   weight   was   5.6   kilogram   and   physical appearance looks normal. Systemic examination did not   reveal   any   abnormality.   The   operated   perineal would   was   looking   normal  and  the  colostomy  was healthy. 
  Overall   the   child   looks   stable   and   recouping following   surgery.   The   surgical   wound   will   need regular aseptic dressings and further management will   be   done   as   per   need.   In   view   of   providing holistic   care,   the   team   felt   that   the   child   may   be
3 shifted   to   AIIMS   under   care   of  Pediatrics   Surgery, Pediatrics   &   Obstetrics   Department   with   support from   Psychiatry   (for   parenteral   counseling).   Team talked to family (Father & Mother) took consent for transfer   of  child   under  care by AIIMS team which they agreed but were worried and concerned about child’s   health.   Father   was   counseled   and   given assurance for providing best care. Being less than one year age all medical expenses will be exempted at   AIIMS   under   Janani   Shishu   Suraksa   Yojana   of Government of India.” 4. Be it stated, the Member Secretary of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority filed a status report which mentions that the child had been shifted to AIIMS for better treatment. That apart, the Member Secretary stated thus:­ “That,   in   the   instant   case   as   per   report   received from DLSA concerned it has stated that vide order dated   30.01.2018   by   the   Court   of   Ld.   Additional Sessions   Judge,   Rohini   Court   an   interim compensation of Rs.75,000/­ has been awarded in accordance   with   Delhi   Victim   Compensation Scheme,   2015.   After   completion   of   necessary formalities i.e. bank account etc. the amount of the said   interim   compensation   would   be   disbursed immediately through RTGS. 
  That,   it   is   submitted   that   DLSA   Secretary, North­West   has   also   visited   at   Kalawati   Saran Hospital   and   met   the   parents   of   the   child   in   the morning of 31.01.2018 and apprised them of their legal   rights   qua   Delhi   Witness   Protection   Scheme, 2015,   Delhi   Victim   Compensation   Scheme,   2015 etc. It is also submitted Legal Services Advocate of DLSA has been appointed for providing legal aid in the matter.”
4 5. On   12.03.2018,   when   the   matter   was   listed,   it   was submitted   by   Ms.  Pinky   Anand,   learned   Additional   Solicitor General, that the victim child had been discharged from AIIMS but she was required to undergo another surgery which had been fixed for 17th April, 2018. 
6. As far as the child in the instant case is concerned, we have been apprised that she has undergone a second surgery and she is presently stable. Ms. Pinky Anand, learned Additional Solicitor General, would submit that if any medical assistance is required and     the   same   is   brought   to   her   notice,   proper   care   shall   be provided to the child. 
7. With   regard   to   the   second   aspect,   on   01.02.2018,   it   was urged by petitioner who appeared in person that as far as cases under   the   POCSO   Act   are   concerned,   there   should   be   speedy disposal   of   such   cases   and   on   a   subsequent   date,   information was sought from the High Courts in respect of the monitoring of speedy disposal of such cases.
8. When the matter was called up today, the petitioner filed a chart stating the number of cases under the POCSO Act pending
5 in   various   States   and   sought   intervention   of   this   Court   for issuing   directions   so   that   sensitivity   with   regard   to   the   said legislation is shown by the trial courts and further, there should be a speedy trial as postulated in the POCSO Act.
9. We   have   heard   Mr.   Alakh   Alok   Srivastava,   the   petitioner, who   has   appeared   in   person   and   Ms.   Pinky   Anand,   learned Additional Solicitor for the respondent­Union of India.
10. The   POCSO   Act   has   been   legislated   keeping   in   view   the fundamental   concept   under   Article   15   of   the   Constitution   that empowers the State to make special provisions for children and also Article 39(f) which provides that the State shall in particular direct   its   policy   towards   securing   that   the   children   are   given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.  The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Act indicate the focus for reduction of child abuse and protection of children from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and   pornography,   etc.   The   relevant   part   of   the   Statement   of Objects and Reasons of the POCSO Act is extracted below:­
6 “3.     The     date   collected   by   the   National   Crime Records     Bureau       shows     that     there   has   been increase   in   cases   of   sexual     offences   against children.   This   is   corroborated   by   the   ‘Study     on Child Abuse: India 2007’ conducted by the Ministry of     Women     and     Child   Development.   Moreover, sexual offences against children are not adequately addressed by the existing laws. A  large  number of such offences are neither  specifically  provided  for nor  are  they adequately  penalized.  The  interests of the child, both as a victim as well as a witness, need to be protected. It is felt that offences  Against children need to be defined explicitly and countered through   commensurate   penalties as an effective deterrence.

4. It is, therefore, proposed to enact a self contained comprehensive   legislation   inter   alia   to   provide   for protection   of   children   from   the   offences   of   sexual assault,   sexual   harassment   and   pornography   with due   regard   for   safeguarding   the   interest   and   well being   of   the   child   at   every   stage   of   the   judicial process   incorporating   child  friendly   procedures   for reporting,   recording   of   evidence,   investigation   and trial   of   offences   and   provision   for   establishment   of Special Courts for speedy trial of such offences.” 11. In this context, it is apposite to reproduce the long Preamble of the POCSO Act. It is as follows:­ “An Act to protect children from offences of sexual assault,   sexual   harassment   and   pornography   and provide for establishment of Special Courts for trial of   such   offences   and   for   matters   connected therewith or incidental thereto. 

Whereas   clause   (3)   of   article   15   of   the Constitution, inter alia, empowers the State to make special provisions for children; 
7 And   whereas,   the   Government   of   India   has
acceded   on   the   11th   December,   1992   to   the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by
the General Assembly of the United Nations, which
has prescribed a set of standards to be followed by
all State parties in securing the best interests of the
child; 

And   whereas   it   is   necessary   for   the   proper
development   of   the   child   that   his   or   her   right   to
privacy   and   confidentiality   be   protected   and
respected by every person by all means and through
all stages of a judicial process involving the child; 

  And   whereas   it   is   imperative   that   the   law
operates in a manner that the best interest and well
being   of   the   child   are   regarded   as   being   of
paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the
healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social
development of the child;

  And   whereas   the   State   parties   to   the
Convention on the Rights of the Child are required
to undertake all appropriate national, bilateral and
multilateral measures to prevent –  (a)   the   inducement   or   coercion   of   a   child   to
engage in any       unlawful sexual activity; 

(b)   the   exploitative   use   of   children   in
prostitution or other   unlawful sexual practices; 

(c)     the   exploitative   use   of   children   in
pornographic performances and materials;

And   whereas   sexual   exploitation   and   sexual
abuse of children are heinous crimes and need to be
effectively addressed.” 
8 12. In Eera through Dr. Manjula Krippendorf v. State (NCT of   Delhi)   and   another1,   one   of   us   (Dipak   Misra,   J),   dwelling upon the purpose of the Statement of Objects and Reasons and the Preamble of the POCSO Act, observed:­ “20. … the very purpose of bringing a legislation of the   present  nature   is to  protect the  children from the   sexual   assault,   harassment   and   exploitation, and to secure the best interest of the child. On an avid and diligent discernment of the preamble, it is manifest that it recognizes the necessity of the right to   privacy   and   confidentiality   of   a   child   to   be protected   and   respected   by   every   person   by   all means and through all stages of a judicial process involving the child. Best interest and well being are regarded as being of paramount importance at every stage   to   ensure   the   healthy   physical,   emotional, intellectual   and   social   development   of   the   child. There is also a stipulation that sexual exploitation and sexual abuse are heinous offences and need to be   effectively   addressed.   The   statement   of   objects and   reasons   provides   regard   being   had   to   the constitutional mandate, to direct its policy towards securing   that   the   tender   age   of   children   is   not abused   and   their   childhood   is   protected   against exploitation and they are given facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. There is also a mention which is quite significant that interest of the child, both as a victim as   well   as   a   witness,   needs   to   be   protected.   The stress   is   on   providing   childfriendly   procedure. Dignity   of   the   child   has   been   laid   immense emphasis   in   the   scheme   of   legislation.   Protection and interest occupy the seminal place in the text of the POCSO Act.” 1 (2017) 15 SCC 133
9 13. At the very outset, it has to be stated with authority that the POCSO   Act   is   a   gender   neutral   legislation.   This   Act   has   been divided into various Chapters and Parts therein. Chapter II of the Act titled  “Sexual Offences Against Children” is segregated into five   parts.   Part   A   of   the   said   Chapter   contains   two   Sections, namely Section 3 and Section 4. Section 3 defines the offence of “Penetrative   Sexual   Assault”   whereas   Section   4   lays   down   the punishment   for   the   said   offence.   Likewise,   Part   B   of   the   said Chapter   titled   “Aggravated   Penetrative   Sexual   Assault   and Punishment   therefor”   contains   two   sections,   namely   Section   5 and Section 6. The various sub­sections of Section 5 copiously deal   with   various   situations,   circumstances   and   categories   of persons   where   the   offence   of   penetrative   sexual   assault   would take the character of the offence of aggravated penetrative sexual assault. Section 5(k), in particular, while laying emphasis on the mental   stability   of   a   child   stipulates   that   where   an   offender commits   penetrative   sexual   assault   on   a   child,   by   taking advantage   of   the   child’s   mental   or   physical   disability,   it   shall amount to an offence of  aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
10 14. That   apart,   Section   28  which  occurs  in  Chapter   VII   titled “Special Courts” requires for designation of a Court of Session in each district as Special Court specifically, to try offences under the POCSO Act for ensuring a speedy trial which is one of the fundamental objectives of the Act. Further, Section 32 stipulates that State Government shall appoint a Special Public Prosecutor for   every   Special   court,   so   designated   under   Section   28,   for conducting cases only under the POCSO Act. 
15. Chapter VIII of the Act deals with the procedure and powers of theses Special Courts and the procedure for recording evidence of the child victim. Section 33 falling under Chapter VIII provides for various safeguards at the trial stage and ensures that various manifold   interests   of   the   child   are   protected.    We   think   it appropriate to reproduce the relevant part of Section 33:­  “33. Procedure and powers of Special Court – (1) A Special  Court may  take cognizance of any  offence, without the accused being committed to it for trial, upon receiving a complaint of facts which constitute such offence, or upon a police report of such facts. (2)   The   Special   Public   Prosecutor,   or   as   the   case may be, the counsel appearing for the accused shall, while   recording   the   examination­in­chief,   cross­ examination   or   re­examination   of   the   child, communicate the questions to be put to the child to the   Special   Court   which   shall   in   turn   put   those
11 questions to the child.
(3)The Special Court may, if it considers necessary, permit frequent breaks for the child during the trial. (4)The   Special   Court   shall   create   a   child­friendly atmosphere   by   allowing   a   family   member,   a guardian, a friend or a relative, in whom the child has trust or confidence, to be present in the court. (5) The Special Court shall ensure that the child is not called repeatedly to testify in the court. (6)   The   Special   Court   not   permit   aggressive questioning or character assassination of the child and ensure that dignity of the child is maintained at all times during the trial.
(7) The Special Court shall ensure that the identity of the child is not disclosed at any time during the course of investigation or trial:
Provided that for reasons to be recorded in writing, the Special Court may permit such disclosure, if in its opinion such disclosure is in the interest of the child.
Explanation. – For the purposes of this sub­section, the identity of the child shall include the identity of the  child’s  family, school, relatives, neighbourhood or any other information by which the identity of the child may be revealed.” 16. Section 35 provides for recording of the evidence of the child and   disposal   of   the   cases.   The   same   being   important   for   the present purpose, it is quoted here:­ “35.   Period   for   recording   of   evidence   of   child   and disposal of case. – (1)The evidence of the child shall be   recorded   within   a   period   of   thirty   days   of   the
12 Special Court taking cognizance of the offence and reasons  for delay, if  any, shall be recorded by the Special Court.
(2) The Special Court shall complete the trial, as far as   possible,   within   a   period   of   one   year   from   the date of taking cognizance of the offence.” 17. The   aforesaid   provisions   make   it   clear   as   crystal   that   the legislature   has   commanded   the   State   to   take   various   steps   at many   levels   so   that   the   child   is   protected   and   the   trial   is appropriately conducted. 
18. Section 37 provides that the Special Court shall try cases in camera  and  in  the   presence of the parents of the child or  any other person in whom the child has trust or confidence; Section 36 casts a duty on the Special Court to ensure that the child is not exposed in any way to the accused at the time of recording of the evidence while at the same time ensuring that the accused is in a position to hear the statement of the child and communicate with his advocate.   The objective of the POCSO Act is to protect the   child   from   many   an  aspect  so that  he/she does not  feel  a sense   of   discomfort   or   fear   or   is   reminded   of   the   horrified experience   and   further   there   has   to   be   a   child   friendly atmosphere. 
13 19. Speaking   about   the   child,   a   three­Judge   Bench   in  M.C.

Mehta v. State of T.N. and others2 opined that:­ “… “child is the father of man”. To enable fathering of   a   valiant   and   vibrant   man,   the   child   must   be groomed well in the formative years of his life. He must receive education, acquire knowledge of man and materials and blossom in such an atmosphere that on reaching age, he is found to be a man with a mission, a man who matters so far as the society is concerned.” 20.   In Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA) v. Union of India and another3, this Court has observed:­ “In   the   case   at   hand,   we   are   concerned   with   the rape committed on a girl child.  As has been urged before   us   that   such   crimes   are   rampant   for unfathomable reasons and it is the obligation of the law   and   law­makers   to   cultivate   respect   for   the children   and   especially   the   girl   children   who   are treated   with   such   barbarity   and   savageness   as indicated   earlier.     The   learned   Senior   Counsel appearing for the petitioner has emphasised on the obtaining horrendous and repulsive situation.” Alice   Miller,   a   Swiss   psychologist,   speaking   about   child abuse has said:­  “Child   abuse   damages   a   person   for   life   and   that damage is in no way diminished by the ignorance of the perpetrator. It is only with the uncovering of the
2 (1996) 6 SCC 756
3 (2016) 3 SCC 680
14 complete truth as it affects all those involved that a genuinely   viable   solution   can   be   found   to   the dangers of child abuse.” 21. Keeping   in   view   the   protection   of   the   children   and   the statutory scheme conceived under the POCSO Act, it is necessary to issue certain directions so that the legislative intent and the purpose are actually fructified at the ground level and it becomes possible   to   bridge   the   gap   between   the   legislation   remaining   a mere parchment or blueprint of social change and its practice or implementation in true essence and spirit is achieved.  
22.  Mr. Srivastava has provided us a chart relating to the cases pending   under   the   POCSO   Act   in   all   States   except   Andhra Pradesh,   Telangana,   Rajasthan   and   Jammu   and   Kashmir   in respect   of   which   the   data   is   not   available.   We   may   take   the example   of   two   States,   namely,   Madhya   Pradesh   and   Uttar Pradesh.     The   pendency   of   such   cases   in   the   State   of   Uttar Pradesh   is   approximately   30884   and   in   the   State   of   Madhya Pradesh, approximately 10117.
23. It is submitted by Mr. Srivastava that in both the States, the cases are pending at the evidence stage beyond one year.  We are absolutely conscious that Section 35(2) of the Act says “as far as
15 possible”. Be that as it may, regard being had to the spirit of the Act, we think it appropriate to issue the following directions:­ (i) The   High   Courts   shall   ensure   that   the   cases registered under the POCSO Act are tried and disposed of by the Special Courts and the presiding officers of the said courts are sensitized in the matters of child protection and psychological response. 

(ii) The Special Courts, as conceived, be established, if not already done, and be assigned the responsibility to deal with the cases under the POCSO Act.

(iii) The instructions should be issued to the Special Courts   to   fast   track   the   cases   by   not   granting unnecessary   adjournments   and   following   the procedure   laid   down   in   the   POCSO   Act   and   thus complete the trial in a time­bound manner or within a specific time frame under the Act. 

(iv) The   Chief   Justices   of   the   High   Courts   are requested to constitute a Committee of three Judges to regulate and monitor the progress of the trials under the POCSO Act. The High Courts where three Judges are not available the Chief Justices of the said courts shall constitute one Judge Committee.

 (v)  The   Director   General   of   Police   or   the   officer   of equivalent rank of the States shall constitute a Special Task Force which shall ensure that the investigation is
16 properly conducted and witnesses are produced on the dates fixed before the trial courts.

(vi) Adequate steps shall be taken by the High Courts to   provide   child   friendly   atmosphere   in   the   Special Courts   keeping   in  view the provisions  of the  POCSO Act so that the spirit of the Act is observed.

24. The   Registry   is   directed to  communicate  this  order  to the Registrar   General   of   the   High   Courts   so   that   it   can   be immediately implemented. With the aforesaid directions, the writ petition stands disposed of.
…….……………………..CJI.
        (DIPAK MISRA) ……………………………….J. (A.M. KHANWILKAR)
                                                                                                                ..…….………………………..J.          (Dr. D.Y. CHANDRACHUD) NEW DELHI;
MAY 01, 2018.

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