The Director-General of Police of Tamil Nadu has drawn the attention of police chiefs in all cities and the districts to the High Court’s recent clarification that cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, can be tried in children’s courts already notified in the State.

This clears the air for police personnel across the State who registered cases under POCSO, but found it difficult to proceed further in the absence of designated courts under the legislation, which came into force only in November 2012.

Cases in which FIRs were registered were hanging fire because the key players involved in the implementation of the Act were unaware of the provision that allowed children’s courts, constituted under the Commissions for the Protection of Children (CPCR) Act, 2005, to be treated as special courts under POCSO.

As per a Government Order dated 20 March 2009, the State government had notified a court of sessions in 29 districts as children’s courts to try offences against children, in addition to their regular work. This was done under the CPCR Act.

Accordingly, the Mahila Courts in ten districts were designated as Special Courts under the CPCR Act. These include Chennai, Coimbatore, Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Madurai, Perambalur, Pudukottai, Salem, Tiruchi, and Tirunelveli.

In 19 other districts – Dharmapuri, Dindigul, Erode, Kanyakumari, Karur, Krishnagiri, Nagapattinam, Namakkal, Nilgiris, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Thanjavur, Theni, Tuticorin, Tiruvallur, Tiruvannamalai, Vellore, Villupuram, and Virudhunagar – the principal district and sessions court was specified as a children’s court.

In 2009, the order further stated that Special Courts for three districts – Tiruvarur, Ariyalur, and Tiruppur – would be notified separately.

Section 28 (1) of the POCSO Act has also specified that a court of sessions notified as a children’s court or as a special court designated for a similar purpose under any other law shall be deemed to be a special court under POCSO.

The DGP has drawn the attention of police authorities throughout the state, including Commissioners in the cities and SPs in the districts, to this clarification so that they could file charge sheets and proceed with the trial in cases involving sexual violence against children. Vidya Reddy of TULIR – Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse, says it is good news that perpetrators can begin to be tried under the POCSO Act, but the children’s courts must be able to fast track the trial, (POCSO says the Special Court is to complete the trial within a period of one year, as far as possible) and maintain a process that is child-friendly. She also questions the progress of trial in the three districts not covered by the 2009 order.

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