The Bombay High Court recently issued guidelines for effective compliance with the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act so as to ensure victim’s participation in various stages of the judicial process.
The Court stated that in the event of an application moved by the prosecution or the defence in a POCSO case, it shall be the duty of the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) to inform the relevant court about the service of such application and notice of hearing along with proof of service. Where such service is not possible, the reasons for the same should be set out in writing, the Court directed.
The relevant Court must also ascertain the status of the notice. Where despite issuance of notice the victim’s family does not attend the hearing, the court may proceed further without the presence of such notice or issue another notice as may be judicially determined appropriate.
The judgment came on plea inviting the Court’s attention to the non-compliance with the provisions of the POCSO Act and Code of Criminal Procedure stipulating the minor victim’s participation in the judicial process.
The criminal plea was instituted by Arjun Malgae, a social worker- who invoked Section 40 (right of a child to take the assistance of legal practitioner) of the POCSO Act, Rule 4(2)(f) (inform the child of such right) of the POCSO Rules and Section 439 (1-A) (presence of victim/ general legal counsel during the bail application moved by the accused) of the Cr.P.C.
The Court observed that POCSO Act reads with Rules 4 (13) and 4 (15) recognized the statutory entitlement to the assistance of and representation by legal counsel for the family or the guardian of the child to be present and participate in proceedings.
“As a necessary corollary, there is also an entitlement of such persons to be made aware of the filing of applications and the hearings scheduled on such applications at various stages of the proceedings”, the Court observed.
The Court directed that a copy of the judgment be circulated to all presiding officers of Session Courts in Maharashtra, the Director-General and Superintendent of Maharashtra Police, State of Maharashtra, and Maharashtra Legal Service Authorities.