Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Proposal for sexual abuse trials in Odisha: Minor victims to be put in separate court rooms

Though the POCSO Act was passed in 2012, it was not until October last year when the Odisha government designated separate courts for trial of the cases as mandated by the Act.

Written by Debabrata Mohanty | Bhubaneswar |
February 13, 2017 1:50:03 am
child abuse, child sex abuse, Odisha POCSO, POCSO Act, child sex abuse victims, POCSO act guidelines, POCSO act implementation Odisha, child victim separate court room Representational image

To make minor victims of sexual offences feel safe during trial, the Odisha government plans to have two separate court rooms in two different locations on the court premises to keep the victim away from the accused.  In a letter to the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Odisha High Court, Secretary of the Women and Child Development Department, Vishal Dev, has proposed that the victim and the accused during the trial of Prevention of Child Sexual Offences Act cases should not have the possibility to come across each other during trial. “In one of the rooms, the magistrate, victim, his/her parent, advocate and advocate of the accused would be seated. In other room, the accused would be seated. Video conferencing system has to be provided in both the rooms so that the victim will be able to see the accused through video only. Being amid parents and away from the accused, victim can be comfortable while deposing the statement before the magistrate,” Dev wrote to the committee.

Though the POCSO Act was passed in 2012, it was not until October last year when the Odisha government designated separate courts for trial of the cases as mandated by the Act. In October last year, the state government made the courts of first additional sessions judge in each of the 30 revenue districts as designated courts for POCSO cases.

Officials said that in the courtroom, the accused would be allowed to see and hear the victim through video conferencing system to defend his case.

A room adjacent to the room where the children’s court is held would have child-friendly surroundings with toys, children’s books, magazines, paintings and attractive decorations. To make the children’s court more child-friendly, video conferencing facility will be be provided in two designated rooms. As per the Act, advocate of the accused cannot put questions directly to the child during examination, cross-examination or re-examination. Further, questions will be put before the special court first then it will communicate the same to child.

As per National Crime Records Bureau, Odisha registered 2,562 cases under POCSO Act in 2015 and was among the top 10 states. However, activists said thousands of cases are pending trial though the Act mandates completion of trial within one year of the court taking cognizance.

Child rights activist Benudhar Senapati said in 2015, a 14-year-old girl in Khurda district was repeatedly raped allegedly by an elderly man of her village and was forced to marry her rapist after she became pregnant.“Though a case was lodged, the trial is yet to happen. There are several such cases where trials are yet to begin,” he said.

“The separate courtroom for victims is a good idea, but I doubt if it would be implemented,” added Senapati.

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