99% POCSO cases in courts pending trial in 2020: Praja report

99% POCSO cases in courts pending trial in 2020: Praja report

India News

While there has been a dip in crimes against children in Delhi in 2020, the pendency of such cases in courts is at an all-time high as judgments have been passed in only 1% of the cases, as per a report by the Praja Foundation.

Data released by the foundation shows a huge pendency in cases under the IPC, Special and Local Laws, crimes against women, and crimes against children in the city. A total of 16,667 cases of crimes against children (CAC) were before courts last year of which 99% are pending trial, as per data till December 2020.

Special courts were set up to deal with heinous crimes against children, focus on POCSO cases, and dispose of them within a year. However, more than 77% of POCSO cases at Delhi courts take 1-3 years to complete trial while over 16% of cases take up to 5 years for a judgment, data shows.

Lawyers say virtual courts set up during the pandemic and unorganised police-court mechanism may be behind the delay.

Deeksha Dwivedi, a criminal lawyer, told The Indian Express, “We have designated sessions courts to deal with POCSO cases, but a majority of these cases are complex. The evidence is very difficult to gather, and police aren’t sensitised enough to deal with victims and even the accused… Also, judges who deal with these cases are overburdened which leads to longer trials despite the POCSO Act stating that trials should end in a year.”

Supreme Court lawyer and senior Advocate Rebecca John added, “The pandemic has given rise to a huge pendency… much worse than what it was earlier. There’s been a delay because only those matters were taken up which could be dealt with in virtual courts. Cases where evidence had to be recorded could not be taken up virtually and most trials were held up. In POCSO cases, the courts have now started to take up matters as they have opened for physical hearings.”

As per Delhi Police data, 1,197 cases were registered in 2020 — a 30% dip compared to 2019 when over 1,719 cases were lodged. However, data from Praja shows that there is a massive delay in investigation. In more than half the POCSO cases, investigation takes more than 90-120 days to be completed. As per data, 56% of CAC cases lodged in 2020 await investigation while chargesheets have been filed in only 36% of cases.

Chinmoy Biswal, Delhi Police spokesperson, said, “In Delhi, we register CAC and POCSO cases promptly and take the deadline of 60 days (POCSO) very seriously. A majority of the 56% pending cases last year have been chargesheeted and moved to court. Understandably, there will always be cases under investigation… We have higher chargesheeting rate (99.06%) than all-India (94.7%) or metro cities (96.8%), with much higher conviction rate (80%) than Metro cities (42.4%) or all-India (39.6%) average. Also, a major component in crimes against children is missing children’s cases. We strictly and promptly register these cases under sections of kidnapping.”

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