Bombay High Court Emphasizes Exclusion of Child Victims In POCSO Appeals; Calls For Sensitisation In Handling Cases

Bombay High Court Emphasizes Exclusion of Child Victims In POCSO Appeals; Calls For Sensitisation In Handling Cases

The child, though parent/guardian “should be added as party respondent” in the bail plea filed by the accused/ convict," said the Nagpur bench of the high court.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Tuesday, November 28, 2023, 07:36 PM IST
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Bombay HC | PTI

The Bombay High Court has emphasised that presence of child victims is not necessary during the hearings in the appeals by convicts and pleas seeking suspension of sentence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). 

The child, through the parents/guardians should be apprised regarding the status of the proceedings, including the appeal, the high court said. However, the child, though parent/guardian “should be added as party respondent” in the bail plea filed by the accused/ convict," said the Nagpur bench of the high court. 

Restriction on Child's Presence: Ensuring Sensitivity

The court has directed that the order copy be sent to the State Director General of Police (DGP) who shall issue a circular/ notification directing all concerned, “sensitising them of importance of handling the case relating to child victims”. 

“Special emphasis be given to ensure that child/victim is not produced before the High Court unless expressly directed,” said Justice Anil Pansare on November 28. 

The HC dealt with the issue while hearing an application filed by a POCSO convict seeking suspension of his sentence pending appeal before the high court. In a detailed order, the court said that usually the victims and their parents have not shown interest in participating in the appeal and sentence suspension proceedings.

Financial and Logistical Challenges: Consideration for Victims' Families

They are required to travel from remote places to attend the Court and thus are put at financial loss as well. Most of them belong to economically weaker section because in almost all cases, they seek legal aid. None of them, in my tenure so far, have shown interest to participate in the proceedings,” said Justice Pansare. 

The judge noted that an earlier high court judgment stipulated victims’ and their parents’ “entitlement to participate” and “not obligation to participate”. By making the conversion, they are put to further hardship. 

Justice Pansare said that the presence of the child through parents / guardian is not obligatory at any other stage, except at the time of hearing of bail application. He said that the purpose of issuance of the notice is to apprise the child’s family or guardian of the stage of the proceedings, in order to facilitate the child’s family to participate in proceedings if so desired.

Differential Roles in Legal Proceedings: Bail Application vs. Suspension of Sentence

The court  said that in bail proceedings the victim may assist the court with his/her personal sufferance and may include facts that are within the exclusive knowledge of the child.

However, in the application seeking suspension of sentence, the child/victim will have no role to play because the judgment along with the entire evidence is before the appellate Court. The bench said that the presence of the prosecutor is sufficient to decide the application.

This, the court stated that the victim and the parents should be added as a party during the hearing of the bail application but not during the suspension of sentence or appeal proceedings.

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