The Bombay High Court has issued guidelines for the effective implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) which aims to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, and provides Special Courts for the trial of such offences.
The Court held that the law gives the child’s family or guardian the right to legal assistance and representation, and to be present and participate in court proceedings of the case when required. Further, information about the filing of applications and hearings scheduled on such applications at various stages of the court’s proceedings must be communicated to the child’s family/guardian. In this context, the Court issued the following guidelines:
- If the prosecution makes an application before the court, the public prosecutor must give a notice of the hearing of such application to the child’s family/guardian, and the authorised lawyer involved on behalf of the child (if any). Along with the notice, the prosecutor must also give all relevant documents and records necessary for effective participation in court proceedings.
- It is the police’s duty to confirm to the relevant court that the prosecution has done so, and given the child’s representatives proper and complete notice of the hearing.
- If the accused makes an application before the court, they must give notice of hearing of such application to the child’s family/guardian, and the authorised lawyer involved on behalf of the child (if any). Along with the notice, the accused must also give all relevant documents and records necessary for effective participation in court proceedings.
- If it is not possible to notify the child’s family, guardian or lawyer, the Special Juvenile Police Unit must inform the relevant court by giving written reasons.
- Before hearing the application, the court must check the status of the notice, and if it finds that notice has not been issued, it can pass reasonable orders for the purpose of justice, considering any urgent circumstances that require dealing with the application in the absence of the child’s family, guardian or lawyer.
- If the child’s family, guardian, or lawyer do not attend the hearing despite issuing a notice, the court may proceed further without their presence, or issue a fresh notice considering the interests of justice.