The Bombay High Court in Atul Gorakhnath Ambale Vs State of Maharashtra observed that delay in examination of child victim under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act will only benefit the accused, The Court observed while issuing directions to all special courts in Maharashtra on recording evidence of victim.
The High Court was hearing a bail application filed by a POCSO Act accused on the ground that there had been no progress in the trial despite an order calling for expeditious completion of the same the court was informed that the victim had not been examined since 2019.
Single Judge Revati Mohite Dere issued the following directions to all the special courts in Maharashtra:
• To ensure that the deposition of the child/victim is recorded as expeditiously as possible.
• To conclude the recording of evidence i.e., examination-in-chief and cross examination of the victim preferably on the same day.
• To ensure that the victim/child is not called frequently to the court, as this would add to victim/child’s trauma.
• To avoid unwarranted adjournments, if adjournments required, then reasons be recorded.
• The child friendly practises be taken/ adopted to ensure that the child/victim feels safe and not in any way exposed to the accused, and
• To ensure that the parents of the child or any other person in whom the child has trust or confidence, is presented at the time of examination of child.
The single judge noted that under section 35(1) of the POCSO Act, the evidence of the child/victim is to be recorded by the Special Court within a period of 30 days of taking cognizance of the offence and reasons for delay, if any, are to be recorded by the special court. It is impressive to record the evidence of the child/victim as expeditiously as possible as if the child/victim is examined after a couple of years delay and this would stand benefit to accused, lest the minor forgets the incident due to the passage of time or an amount of counselling.
She opined that the delay in examination would only add to trauma, as the child/victim will be required to re-live the sexual assault while deposing in court.
The order stated: “Delay in trials in cases of sexual abuse of victims, often leads to re-victimization and ignominy, as the trial process itself makes the victim re-live the horrific experience. In case of small children/children of tender age, due to vulnerability, it may lead to further trauma.
Justice Revati Mohite Dere emphasized the importance of mandating and complying of section 35 of the POCSO Act which stipulates recording of child/victim evidence in an expeditious manner.