POCSO Special Courts must devise methods to protect identity of child abuse victim during investigation and trial

Sikkim High Court: While deciding the present appeal wherein the appellant convicted under the POCSO Act, prayed before the Court for his acquittal, the Bench of Meenakshi Madan Rai, J., dismissed the appeal and urged that the Police, the media and especially the POCSO Special Courts to devise methods to protect the identity of a child abuse victim.

Observing the obligation laid down by the POCSO Act, the Court laid emphasis on the sensitive approach of the parties concerned and to the best of their ability to take steps for prevention of such sexual exploitation of children.

As per the facts, the appellant was convicted under Sections 9(l), 9(m) and 9(n) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) and S. 354 of the IPC and the sentences were ordered to run concurrently. The counsel for the appellant, Gulshan Lama, raised doubts upon the credibility of the victim’s testimony stating that her evidence lacked corroboration. Per contra, the respondent via their counsel Karma Thinlay Namgyal argued that it is now well established that the evidence of a victim of sexual assault requires no corroboration if the evidence given by her is cogent and consistent; and in the instant matter, the evidence given by the victim has been consistent despite her age and in her cross-examination she did not hesitate.

Perusing the facts of the case, the Court pointed out that there were slip-ups by the Special Court vis-à- vis the protection of the identity of the victim in the impugned decision in issue. The Court noted that the charge-sheet against the appellant also consisted of all the details of the victim. The Court observed that S. 33(7) of the POCSO Act enjoins upon the Special Court to ensure that the identity (which includes child’s family, school, relatives) of the child is not disclosed at any time during the course of investigation or trial. The provisions in law which seek to protect the identity of the child are for the purpose of sheltering her from curiosity and prying eyes, and to protect her future by preventing any kind of tracking and repetition of such incidents which could further traumatize her psychologically creating insecurity and apprehension in her mind. The Investigating Agency for their part should ensure that the identity of the victim is protected and not disclosed during investigation or in the Charge-Sheet. A separate file may perhaps be maintained in utmost confidence, for reference. Furthermore the Court observed that the Child Protection Legislations lay an obligation not only on the Court and the Police, but also on the media and society at large to protect children from the exponentially increasing sexual offences and to the best of their ability to take steps for prevention of such sexual exploitation of children. [Subash Chandra Rai v. The State of Sikkim, 2018 SCC OnLine Sikk 29, decided on 31.03.2018]

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.