Delhi HC Expresses Concerns Over Presence of CSA Survivor at the Time of POCSO Bail Hearings
The Delhi High Court expressed concerns over the potential psychological impact on a survivor of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) when they are required to be present in court during bail hearings for the alleged abuser. This is because the arguments often vary from allegations, accusations, doubting integrity and outright character assassination, even when the survivor is a minor and the alleged abuser is being tried under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), which is the central legislation dealing with sexual offences against children.
The HC was hearing an interlocutory application asking for suspension of sentence of a POCSO accused as he has served a substantial portion of his sentence that was prescribed by the trial court. The court imposed several restrictions on the accused who is the father of prosecutrix (the survivor) such as - that the he shall not visit his family in Rajasthan, that he should visit the police station every Monday, that he shall not contact any members of the survivor’s family.
On receiving some suggested practices from the side of appellant over in light of the fact that many of the victims in POCSO cases were being made to appear physically or virtually in Court at the time of hearing of the bail applications, the court said in its order, “This has led to a situation where the victims are being forced not only potentially interact with the accused person, but also be present in Court when the arguments regarding the offence are being taken up for hearing. The psychological impact on a POCSO victim being present in Court is immensely grave as the arguments vary from allegations, accusations, doubting integrity, character etc. The prosecutrix/ victim is forced to be present in the Court with the accused that is the same person who allegedly has violated her.”
The court sent the suggested guidelines to Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee (DHCLSC) and Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) for their input.
Section 33 of the act states that the special court that has taken cognizance of an offence, should create a child friendly atmosphere in courts. Section 36 of the act states that the child should not see the accused during testifying or presenting any evidence in the court. This section allows the usage of single visibility mirrors and curtains for the purpose of realising the purpose of the section. It says --
“(1) The Special Court shall ensure that the child is not exposed in anyway 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.
(2) For the purposes of sub-section (1), the Special Court may record the statement of a child through video conferencing or by utilising single visibility mirrors or curtains or any other device.”
Section 37 of the POCSO Act states that the trials be conducted in Camera and parents or person the child has trust or confidence in, be present. It says-
“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:
Provided that where the Special Court is of the opinion that the child needs to be examined at a place other than the court, it shall proceed to issue a commission in accordance with the provisions of section 284 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974)”
These provisions were included in the act so that the child is not put through the trauma once again during the process of trial and a child friendly environment can be created. The case will be listed on 30th August again for further directions.
The full order may be read here:
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