Tamil Nadu

Demand for more POCSO special courts in T.N. to clear pendency

As the pendency of cases filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act continues to bother activists, nearly one year after the government announced that special courts would be set up in four districts to handle these cases exclusively, they have not come up yet. In Theni, sources said, construction of the court is under way.

Pursuant to a Supreme Court order, on a suo motu writ petition from 2019, to constitute an exclusive/designated special court in districts where there are more than 100 cases under the Act, the State government passed an order in February 2021 to set up a special court each in Dindigul, Dharmapuri, Theni and Tiruvallur districts to handle the high volume of cases, even sanctioning funds to establish them.

“The reason for the order to constitute special courts was the high pendency in these districts. However, delays [in establishing these courts] will only increase the pendency. If you do not have the infrastructure necessary to handle the cases, it is clear that pendency will continue to increase,” says Vidya Reddy of Tulir-Centre for Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse. A total of 14,380 POCSO Act cases were filed as on February 26, 2022, and 7,193 of them were disposed of, and the rest were pending.

In her experience, she says, there tends to be a huge difference between special courts, and ‘designated courts’ to try cases belonging to a particular domain. In Tamil Nadu, of the 32 judicial districts, 16 have been identified as having more than 100 cases under the POCSO Act, and 8 districts having more than 200 cases. Sixteen exclusive POCSO Act courts have been set up, and are functional in Chennai, Coimbatore, Cuddalore, Kancheepuram, Nagercoil, Madurai, Nagapattinam, Salem, Sivaganga, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli, Tiruvannamalai, Thoothukudi, Vellore, Villupuram and Virudhunagar. In the other districts, Mahila Courts have been designated as the POCSO Act courts.

“In these special courts, we have noticed that the quality of the prosecution is much better. There are special public prosecutors as well appointed, and the energy they bring to the investigation and the prosecution is to be appreciated,” Ms. Reddy says. It makes a lot of difference to each case, she argues. If justice needs to be served, the prosecution needs to build a watertight case in order that it may not end up in acquittal, she adds.

The Supreme Court, in its order on the suo motu petition, has specified that in districts where there are more than 100 cases under the POCSO Act, at least one exclusive court has to be set up and in every district where there are more than 300 cases, at least two exclusive courts will have to be set up.

According to the latest data on the status of the cases under POCSO Act as on February 26, 2022, 26 districts have over 100 pending cases; 17 of them have over 200 pending cases; eight of them over 300 cases; four of them over 400 pending cases; and one, over 500 pending cases (Tirunelveli). Child rights activists point out that in the districts where there is a special POCSO court, disposal of cases is also more efficient and speedier, though there is pendency.

“Pendency is not only about the number. It leaves a deep impact on the victim and the family,” explains Girija Kumarababu, secretary, Indian Council for Child Welfare. “There is a great deal of social and economic pressure that is exerted on the family of a victim and the child too; it becomes worse when the abuser starts to exert influence and power. Besides the trauma of the incident, it is quite likely that girls, especially, drop out of school, undergoes a great deal of mental stress. For the family, repeated visits to the court will mean loss of wages, besides disharmony at home,” she says, underlining the need to ensure speedy and efficient disposal of POCSO cases.

( With inputs from L. Srikrishna)

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 4:56:11 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/demand-for-more-pocso-special-courts-in-tn-to-clear-pendency/article65565263.ece