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Sunday 19 January 2020

Child rape: Nationwide data collection by Supreme Court

A 10-day nation-wide exercise to collect data on sexual assault on children (child rape) for effective and expeditious prosecution.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday commenced a 10-day nationwide exercise to collect data on sexual assault on children (child rape) for effective and expeditious prosecution of offenders.

The apex court on 12 July had, on its own, taken note of the “alarming rise” in the number of rape incidents against children and said it will pass directions to ensure a “concerted” and “clear” national response.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Monday deliberated upon the steps likely to be taken to deal with the issue and sought an extensive report on the number of pending cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, in each district.

The bench, which had appointed senior advocate V Giri as amicus curiae (friend of the court to assist it in the matter), on Monday asked him to work with apex court registrar S S Rathi and get details of the cases and give suggestions.

“We request Giri to proceed with the exercise, to facilitate which, we direct Surinder S Rathi, Registrar of this court to work in association with Giri’s office and get the required information which would be in the context of the total number of POCSO cases pending in each district of the country.

“The period for which the POCSO cases remained pending may also be collected separately. This exercise shall commence from today and be completed within ten days,” it said and fixed the case for deliberations on 25 July.

During the brief hearing, Giri referred to the provisions of the POCSO Act and submitted that they needed to be strictly implemented at all stages, commencing from the stage of investigation and the different facets of the trial. He also stressed on the need of sensitization of special judges and prosecutors who would be dealing with the cases. He said it would be convenient for him to make his suggestions in writing with regard to the guidelines that may be issued by the court once he is able to collate all the relevant facts which would require coordination of the Registries of the various High Courts. While he was making submissions, the bench said that it has taken the suo-motu cognizance of various reports of newspapers and portals on rising incidents of child rape from January to 30 June, this year.

The bench gave Giri the liberty to collect the data before 2019 also.

The court had earlier made clear that no third party except Giri and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta would be allowed to intervene in the matter saying that, otherwise, nothing can happen in such a matter.

The bench had directed the apex court registry to register the case as a writ petition titled as “In-re Alarming Rise in The Number of Reported Child Rape Incidents”.

The bench said it had asked the Registry to file a report on two aspects such as the total number of rape cases involving child registered across India since 1 January and the stage of investigation and the time taken to file a charge sheet as also the status of trials.

It had asked the Registry to collect details from all the states and high courts.

Referring to the data on sexual crimes against children, it said that from 1 January to 30 June this year, 24,212 FIRs have been filed across India.

Out of over 24,000 cases, 11,981 are still being probed by the police and in 12,231 cases, police have filed the charge sheet, it said.

Trials have commenced in 6,449 cases only, it said, adding that they are yet to commence in 4,871 cases.

Till now, the trial courts have decided only 911 cases, about 4 per cent of the total cases registered, it said.

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