The Madras High Court has recommended special training to the judges dealing with cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, so that they render proper and appropriate judgments.
Justice P Velmurugan made the recommendation recently, while dismissing a criminal appeal from a child rape accused, who challenged the conviction and sentence awarded by a lower court.
The trial court had held that the sentences were to run concurrently. Instead, Justice Velmurugan said that it should run consecutively.
"It is pertinent to mention here that the trial Judge has failed to appreciate the age of the victim girl and not understood the relevant provisions of the POCSO Act," the judge said.
In many cases, the special Judges who deal with cases under POCSO Act, do not properly understand its scope and object."Before posting any Sessions Judge to the Special Court, which deals with the cases under the POCSO Act, have to necessarily sensitise and impart training to them through the Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy," the judge said.
He directed the Registrar-General and the Director of State Judicial Academy to take steps for the same after getting necessary approval from the Chief Justice, who is the Patron-in-Chief and Board of Governors of the Academy.
The appeal was from one Venkatachalam, a resident of Puduchathiram village in Namakkal district, seeking to quash an order dated January 22 this year of the Sessions Judge, Fast Track Mahila Court in Namakkal and acquit him of the charges.
The lower court had sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment (RI) for three years for the offence under Sec. 7 r/w 8 of POCSO Act and for the one under sec. 506(i) of the IPC, to undergo one year RI. The sentences are to run concurrently.
After verifying the records, Justice Velmurugan found that the victim girl, at the time of occurrence of the offence in January 2014, was only eight years old and the trial Judge had failed to appreciate the same and understand the relevant provisions of the POCSO Act.
The judge noted that the appellant had sexually harassed her, who was below 12 years and also threatened her not to disclose the incident to anybody.
The minimum punishment for the offence under Section 7 of the Act is three years, whereas for the offence under Section 9(m) of the Act, five years, the judge pointed out.
"Under these circumstances, this Court finds that the appellant has committed the offence under Section 9(m) of the Act, punishable under Sec. 10 of the Act."
"However, the trial Court has failed to look into the age of the victim girl at the time of occurrence i.e. 8 years and wrongly convicted and sentenced him only under Section 7 of the Act. In fine, this Court does not interfere with the charges framed by the trial Court against the appellant," the judge said.
The court, however, set aside the order of the trial court, which had stated that the sentences were to run concurrently and modified into "consecutively".
This would meet the ends of justice, the judge said and directed the trial court to take appropriate steps to immure him in prison to serve the remaining period of sentence.