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Supreme Court Directs States to Strengthen Support for Child Victims Under POCSO Act Implementation [Read Judgment]

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      23 August, 2023 01:44 AM      0 Comments
Supreme Court Directs States to Strengthen Support for Child Victims Under POCSO Act Implementation [Read Judgment]

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the state governments to ensure strict implementation of POCSO Rules 2020, which offered an effective framework in providing support system to the child victims to reduce the ordeal for them during the investigation, trial and rehabilitation.

A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar said in crimes against children, it is not only the initiating horror or trauma that is deeply scarring; that is aggravated by the lack of support and handholding in the days that follow.

"In such crimes, true justice is achieved not merely by nabbing the culprit and bringing him to justice, or the severity of punishment meted out, but the support, care, and security to the victim (or vulnerable witness), as provided by the state and all its authorities in assuring a painless, as less an ordeal an experience as is possible, during the entire process of investigation, and trial," it said.

The court further said the support and care provided through state institutions and offices is vital during this period.

"Furthermore, justice can be said to have been approximated only when the victims are brought back to society, made to feel secure, their worth and dignity, restored. Without this, justice is an empty phrase, an illusion," the bench said.

On a writ petition by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the bench noted the role of a ‘support person’ as envisaged in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2020, despite being a progressive step, remains unfulfilled, or is given effect to, in a partial or ad-hoc manner, thus limiting its positive potential in offering support to victims and their families.

The court issued a slew of directions to the Uttar Pradesh Government's Principal Secretary to the Department of Women and Child Welfare, including to convene a meeting within the next six weeks, to review the facts, take action, and frame rules or guidelines on several issues also on support persons.

The bench asked the Union government and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to file an affidavit on framing of guidelines by October 4, 2023. It put the matter for further hearing on October 6, 2023.

In its order, the bench noted this court in 'In Re Alarming Rise in the Number of Reported Child Rape Incidents' , recorded that as per the Supreme Court Registrar’s report prepared in November 2019, a support person had been appointed only in 4% of POCSO cases.

The bench said from the point of registering an FIR or complaint under the POCSO Act, the victim and their family are required to interact with the police machinery, medical officers and hospitals, the Magistrate, Special Court and/or Juvenile Justice Board, the concerned Child Welfare Committee and other stakeholders – which in itself can be daunting and overwhelming (over and above the already traumatic experience of the crime itself), often dissuading them from pursuing the case altogether.

That is why, the role of a ‘support person’ was institutionalised in the POCSO Rules, 2020, to fill this lacuna, the bench added.

As per rules, a support person is to provide information, emotional and psychological support, and practical assistance which are often crucial to the recovery of the child.

"Their potential in providing moral support and guidance, which directly translates to better and more just outcomes both in terms of prosecution, and rehabilitation, cannot be overstated," the bench said.

[Read Judgment] 



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