The State government told the Bombay High Court on Monday that two more child-friendly courts will be established in the city.
This was stated when Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice M.S. Karnik were hearing a suo motu public interest litigation after the Supreme Court directed all high courts to establish child-friendly and vulnerable witness courts.
Advocate-General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the court that after receiving the map of the city civil and sessions court from the Public Works Department (PWD) a meeting will be scheduled between the Registrar of the court, the architect, and PWD members to decide on the location and infrastructure needed for the court.
He also said that earlier there was a proposal for only one child-friendly court as one already exists. But the State has decided to build two more in the city civil and sessions court, and in Dindoshi court. To this the Bench said they don’t want anything fancy and the work must begin on priority basis.
On October 18, the State government had informed the court that more than ₹33 crore have been sanctioned which included funds for establishing child friendly courts and vulnerable witness’ courts. The court registry was also going to start finalising a model design for child-friendly court.
On February 9, 2018 the Supreme Court had said, “We request and urge the Chief Justice of every High Court to seriously consider establishing child-friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts in each district. Inquiries under the Juvenile Justice Act and trials under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, trials for sexual offences under the Indian Penal Code require to be conducted with a high degree of sensitivity, care and empathy for the victim.”
The court went on to say, “It is often said that the experiences in our courts of a juvenile accused of an offence or the victim of a sexual offence is traumatic. We need to have some compassion towards them — even juveniles in conflict with law, since they are entitled to the presumption of innocence — and establishing child friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts is perhaps one manner in which the justice delivery system can respond to ease their pain and suffering. Another advantage of such court is that they can be used for trials in which adult women are victims of sexual offences since they too are often traumatised by the not so friendly setting and environment in our courts.”
Mazgaon court gets victim-friendly room
In a welcome move, the first victim-friendly room was recently set up at the special Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA) court at Mazgaon court.
The room, at the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) and metropolitan magistrate at Mazgaon, has a sitting area for the survivors and has charts and posters with vital information about trafficking, information listing out to the survivors on procedures on what needs to done next after they are rescued, the stages of going to a shelter home, and the court procedures.
Apart from providing much needed space to the victims of trafficking, children, and also victims of rape and sexual assault who come to court to testify, the room will help keep them away from the accused. An advocate instrumental in establishing the room, requesting anonymity, said, “The approval for this room has come from the Bombay High Court. A letter had to be sent to the CMM, who had to then write to the principal judge at the sessions court, who in turn wrote to the Chief Justice of the HC. After the court allotted the place, the room could be inaugurated.”
Advocate Deepa Chavan, amicus curie in a public interest litigation before the Bombay High Court (HC) points out the need for such rooms said, “It is imperative to have such rooms in all trial courts as it helps protect vulnerable victims.”
However she also pointed out that in order for it to benefit the victims it is important to train and sensitise the staff including the clerks and associates.
On October 18, 2018, the State had informed the HC that ₹33 crore had been sanctioned to set up courts and witness deposition centres in every district.