NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court issued a series of directions to help reduce the trauma of POCSO victims, including hybrid and in-chamber hearings, after noting that many of these victims were being invariably made to face their alleged tormentors when they appear physically or virtually in court for bail application hearings of the accused.
The bench of Justice Jasmeet Singh in an order passed last week noted that many of the victims in Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) cases were being asked to appear physically or virtually in Court at the time of hearing bail applications of the accused.
This has led to a situation where the victims were being forced not only to interact potentially with the alleged accused person but also be present in Court when arguments regarding the offence were taken up for hearing. The court while issuing directions said, if these directions are implemented in their true letter, spirit, and intent may help in reducing the trauma of POCSO victims.
The psychological impact on a POCSO victim being present in Court during the arguments is grave as there are allegations, accusations, doubting the integrity, character, etc. of the prosecutrix, her family, etc.
The presence of the prosecutrix victim in Court at the time of arguments, according to me, has an adverse impact on the psyche of the prosecutrix, said the Court. The prosecutrix is forced to be present in Court with the accused, who is the same person who has allegedly violated her.
It was felt that it would be in the interest of the victim that she is not traumatized again and again by reliving the said incident by being present in Court proceedings.
In this view of the matter and in addition to the practice directions issued earlier, it is further directed that during bail hearings of a POCSO case, the Investigation Officer shall ensure that timely service of notice of bail application is made on the victim/ prosecutrix so that she gets a reasonable amount of time to enter appearance and make her submissions.
The victim can be produced virtually before the Court (either by the IO/ Support person before the Court) (by way of Video Conferencing) or by taking assistance from the District Legal Services Authority.
A hybrid form of hearing bail applications would suitably address the concerns of the victim while at the same time safeguarding the rights of the accused. The victim and the accused shall not come face to face in this manner and this can prevent the re-traumatization of the victim, said the court.
If the victim gives it in writing that her counsel/ parent/guardian/ support person shall appear on her behalf and make submissions on the bail application, insistence on the physical or virtual presence of the prosecutrix shouldn't be made.
A written authorization of the victim authorizing another to make submissions on her behalf (after the victim is duly identified by the IO) and said authorization is forwarded by the SHO, should suffice, directed Delhi High Court.
Whenever the victim comes to court for a hearing on the bail application, the support person provided to her should be present with her so as to provide the necessary psychological or logistical support to the victim/prosecutrix.
In certain exceptional cases, in-chamber interaction with the victim can be done and her submissions qua the bail application can be recorded in the order sheet passed on that day so that the same may be considered at a later stage.
While recording the submissions/ objections/ statement of the victim qua the bail application, appropriate questions may be put to the victim to elicit her responses instant of bluntly asking her, "Do you want bail to be given to the accused or not?" Rather questions can be put to her to ascertain what her apprehensions and fears are in case the accused is granted bail in the matter, for bail is to be granted by the Court concerned on the basis of overall appreciation of facts and circumstances of the case and in the light of well-settled principles governing the grant of bail.
It may further be clarified that the victim's presence may not be insisted on in cases under the POCSO Act, where the accused is a child in conflict with the law because the considerations for grant of bail to the child in conflict with the law are not dependent on the apprehensions of the prosecutrix.
Section 12 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 delineates separate parameters for considering the grant of bail to children in conflict with the law, and giving an audience to the prosecutrix will not have any bearing on the same, Delhi High Court said while issued several more practice direction in POCSO Case.