Special courts needed to try POCSO cases: SCPCR chief

A Reporter
SHILLONG, May 6: The Chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), Meena Kharkongor has called for the need to set up Special Courts to exclusively try cases under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012. It may be mentioned that under the POCSO Act, 2012 envisages the setting up of special courts.
Kharkongor said that the district and sessions courts has been designated as POCSO courts in the State which is leading to considerable delay in the disposal of the cases registered under the Act.
According to the SCPCR, Chairperson, since 2013 when the POCO Act was implemented in the state till date there are a total number of 506 cases registered under the Act, out of which only 19 persons were convicted and a total of five persons were acquitted by the courts.
In East Khasi Hills from 2013-2018 there were 196 cases registered under POCSO but there were no conviction.
In West Khasi Hills out of the 74 cases registered under POCSO 11 people were convicted and one was acquitted from 2013-2018.
In Ri-Bhoi out of the 83 registered cases from 2013 till date there are no convictions whereas in West Jaintia Hills out of the 60 registered cases five ended up in conviction and two were acquitted. In East Garo Hills, out of the four registered cases three ended up in conviction and two were acquitted.
She informed that so far, the Special Court for cases under POCSO have been set up in Shillong (East Khasi Hills), Nongstoin (West Khasi Hills), Nongpoh (Ri-Bhoi), Tura (West Garo Hills), Jowai (West Jaintia Hills), Williamnagar (East Garo Hills) and Amapti (South West Garo Hills).
“As per POCSO Act 2012 cases under the act have to be taken up by Special Courts but in our state due to paucity of judges, the district and session judges court have been designated as Special Courts,” Kharkongor said.
“But these Special Courts designated to district and session judges also take up regular cases apart from POCSO related cases and they have to divide their time accordingly and can’t dedicate their time to POCSO cases only,” the SCPCR Chairperson added.
She also clarified that over and above that it is not that the cases are pending due to the judges only but there are other reasons too, like witnesses do not come and in some cases the victims are not to found since due to long pendency of cases they settle in some other places and the police do not have their permanent address.
Kharkongor also said that in some cases police who have to give their statements in the courts cannot because they are also involved in law and order duties and therefore take adjournment.
“Sometimes the defence takes adjournment sometimes the prosecution takes it. All these combine together delay the case,” she added.
She also said that if there are Special Courts exclusively for POCSO cases the children who are victims will get true justice.
The SCPCR hoped that more judges would be appointed who will to take up POCSO cases.
“If we have such exclusive courts and there are convictions for the perpetrators maybe fear will be instilled in the minds of others. As of now people are boldly committing crimes against children because they know the conviction takes time and they can escape and they even threaten the victims.
Kharkongor also urged the court to protect witnesses and victims from the hands of perpetrators.
“From the part of the Commission I want to say that the courts should have a system to give protection to witnesses and victims. On many occasions the witnesses and victims they become hostile and don’t come forward to the court,” she added.
She also said that the SCPCR will soon meet the Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and Home Minister, James K Sangma to discuss on issues of safety of children.
“We recently met the officials of the Education Department who asked us to give ideas on how to improve the draft education policy,” Kharkongor said.