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A year after the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012 was notified, sessions courts in the capital seem to be facing numerous problems while dealing with cases of child abuse.
Data received through RTI applications filed by NGO Pratidhi shows that of a total of 792 cases received in the last 11 months, 750 cases are pending with all the courts. Of the decided cases, only 14 accused have been convicted.
The reasons for this huge backlog: lack of infrastructure, not enough prosecutors and too many cases coming in.
At present, the court of the senior-most additional sessions judge of each district handles all cases under POCSO Act and rape cases involving children. The same court also handles the special cases under MCOCA, SEBI Act, old cases under TADA and POTA, along with the regular cases that are pending. Each court handles over 300 cases.
And all these 300-odd cases are handled by the public prosecutor attached to the court instead of a special prosecutor dedicated to handle cases related to child sexual offences, as mandated by Section 32(1) of the POCSO Act.
However, in a reply sent to the High Court in March, the department of Law and Justice had said since the ASJ courts had been deemed as special courts for the POCSO cases, there was "no need for setting up exclusive courts".
During a hearing in Delhi High Court on Wednesday, the counsel for the Delhi government admitted that the proposal for appointing special prosecutors was "pending" as the Law department was "vetting the proposal".
The bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Manmohan directed the government to speed up the process, noting that the government was "not following procedure". "You cannot have the regular public prosecutor handling the POCSO cases. Appoint special prosecutors," the court said.
In May, the court had directed the government to file an action taken report on the appointment of prosecutors, following a PIL on the functioning of POCSO courts.
Earlier this month, the court of ASJ Pawan Kumar Jain had observed that POCSO cases were being delayed as the forensic reports did not come in on time.
Pulling up the Forensic Science Library (FSL) and police, the court had directed that a meeting be held between the Director of FSL, the Commissioner of Police, Director of Prosecution and one representative of Government of NCT to find a solution to the problem.
Similar orders have been issued by various other ASJs to speed up filing of forensic reports, but no action has been taken.
In a separate PIL heard before the High Court last month, both the Centre and the Delhi government had assured the court that it was looking into establishing more FSLs and appointing more forensic scientists to clear the huge backlog.
The court had also noted that an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure made in 2009 had made it mandatory to videotape the statement of the victim in certain cases of offences against women. But the infrastructure had not been made available till date.
According to Pratidhi chairperson Raj Mangal Prasad, "The purpose of setting up special courts to try such offences is to provide speedy trial. But now 94.69 per cent of cases are pending with the courts."