Judicial Updates -
SUPREME COURT - THE STATE MUST PROVIDE SUPPORT PERSONS TO CHILD VICTIMS IN THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT, 2012 CASES.
In the case of We the Women of India v. Union of India and Ors. [Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s).1156/2021], the Supreme Court has reiterated the importance of Section 39 of the Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (“Act”) while dealing with matters related to the offences contained in the act.
Section 39 of the Act states that the state government shall prepare guidelines for the use of non-governmental organisations, professionals and experts or persons having knowledge of psychology, social work, physical health, mental health and child development to be associated with the pre-trial and trial stage to assist the child. POCSO Rules, 2020 (“Rules”) define a support person as being someone assigned by a child welfare committee to render assistance to a child during the process of investigation and trial, or any other person assisting a child, pre-trial or during the process of a trial pertaining to the offences under the Act.
The present application has been filed by the “Bachpan Bachao Andolan” which drew attention towards issues related to protection provided to victims under the Act.
The Supreme Court of India held in this case that the state is duty-bound to provide a support person to child victims of POCSO offences, the same cannot be left to the discretion of the parents. The Supreme Court has also formulated guidelines that are to be taken into consideration for appointing a support person for child victims:
“Requiring a uniform standard of education of support persons for which the minimum qualification may be graduation with relevant experience in child psychology, social work or child welfare, etc.;
The general practice of limiting engagements of support persons to number of cases to a particular time limit of three years or five years should be avoided. A suggestive uniform policy should be framed eventually leading to encadrement of such persons in the concerned ministry at the appropriate stage;
The reasonable remuneration to be paid to the support persons commensurate with the work and functions to be discharged by them;
Creation of an All India Portal which will be accessible to all individuals and organisations such as JJBs and Individual CWCs, which can list out the details of all support persons available in the concerned states and union territories; and
A panel to be maintained by each state in respect of NGOs and support persons, whose services may be availed by the CWCs/JJBs. This list too should be accessible in the portal referred to in (4) above.”
The above guidelines are not exhaustive in nature and additions may be made as per the requirement of every case.