Public prosecutors must be trained to deal with child victims and witnesses in sexual harassment cases, the Supreme Court has said and laid emphasis on the need to develop a programme to train them.
The top court said there is a need to have exclusive special public prosecutors for cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
"They need to know how to bring out the truth from children who are victims of sexual abuse and have to undergo the trauma again while recounting the traumatic experience. The job assigned to the public prosecutor for POCSO cases is a very onerous one which must be carried out with great care and sensitivity.
"Therefore not only is there a need to have exclusive public prosecutors but there is also a need to develop a training programme where these special public prosecutors should be trained to deal with issues which will arise in their courts. These issues may not be confined to legal issues which otherwise public prosecutors may be trained to deal with. The issues may be psychological, health and other related issues," a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said.
The apex court directed all states to appoint exclusive public prosecutors in all the courts that have been set up exclusively for POCSO cases.
"We request the Chief Justices of all High Courts to ensure that in the judicial academy of the state special programmes are developed so that these special public prosecutors attached to POCSO courts are imparted training not only in law but also in child psychology, child behaviour, health issues, etc.
"We also request the Director of the National Judicial Academy to ensure that a training programme is developed in the National Judicial Academy to train master trainers who can then work in the judicial academies in each state. We realise that the National Judicial Academy cannot train all the special public prosecutors in the country but they can prepare a team of master trainers who can travel from state to state to impart training to the persons appointed as special public prosecutors," the bench said.
The apex court directed Assam and Registrar General of J&K High Court to file affidavits clearly stating that POCSO courts shall deal exclusively with POCSO matters and not deal with any other matters.
These affidavits have to be filed by February 28.
The top court directed the Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir to sit with the Registrar General of the High Court on or before January 24 and prepare a chart of POCSO cases in each district.
"If there are more than 100 cases in any district then in pursuance of our directions dated December 16, 2019 one exclusive POCSO Court shall be set up and made functional before March 1, 2020. We make it clear that in case there is no district having more than 100 cases then there is no need to set up exclusive POCSO court," the bench said.
The apex court was hearing a petition with regard to "alarming rise in the number of reported child rape incidents" after taking suo motu cognisance.
The top court had said states would have to set up two designated courts in districts where the number of pending cases of child abuse under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act is more than 300.
It had made it clear that its July 2019 direction to set up one court in each district having more than 100 FIRs under POCSO Act meant it has to be a designated court to deal with only such cases under the law.
In a slew of directions, the apex court had said that a short clip, intended to spread awareness about prevention of child abuse and prosecution of crimes against children, be screened in every movie hall and broadcast by various television channels at regular intervals.
It had directed that the special court be funded by the Centre that will take care of appointment of presiding officer, support persons, special public prosecutors, court staff and infrastructure, including creation of child-friendly environment and vulnerable witness court rooms.
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