The bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra directed all high courts to ensure that the cases of sexual assault of children to be fast-tracked and decided by special courts. The apex court also asked the high courts to instruct the trial courts not to grant unnecessary adjournments during a trial of cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said the high courts may constitute a committee of three judges to regulate and monitor the trials of sexual assault cases of children, as it disposed of a PIL filed by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava. Srivastava, in his personal capacity, had approached the top court after the horrific incident of rape of an 8-month girl child allegedly by her 28-year-old cousin on January 28 in a locality near Netaji Subhash Place in north-west Delhi had come to light.
The Union Cabinet had on April 21 approved the ordinance to provide stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of rape of girls below 12 years. The move of the Centre came after a public outcry for award of death penalty to such sexual offenders, including the assaulters of an 8-year-old girl who was gang-raped and killed at Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir recently. Srivastava’s plea had also sought the provision of death penalty in such cases and framing of guidelines that investigation and trial of cases involving rape of children below 12 years of age under POSCO Act, should be completed in six months from the date of registration of the FIR.
The police had said the accused had confessed to raping the baby under the influence of liquor. The girl’s parents used to go out for work leaving their daughter in the custody of their sister-in-law. It was a Sunday when their sister-in-law’s son was at home, the police had said, adding that when the accused saw his mother was not around, he allegedly forced himself on the baby. When the girl’s mother returned home, she saw blood stains on the victim’s clothes and informed her husband, they said, adding she was rushed to a hospital where it was found that she had been sexually assaulted.