Allahabad HC directs JTRI Lucknow to Create Standardized Mental Health Assessment System for POCSO Victims

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The POCSO Act scheme takes a composite view of the menace of sexual abuse of children, and justice under the enactment has many facets, said the court

The Allahabad High Court has issued a direction to the Judicial Training & Research Institute, Lucknow to create a standardized evaluation system/line of enquiry to determine the mental condition of the victims of offences under the POCSO Act, 2012, and to provide for their rehabilitation.

The bench of Justice Ajay Bhanot asked the JTRI, Lucknow to do so in consultation with the State Government, institutions of higher legal learning, institutions of higher research and education, institutions of special expertise like NIMHANS, Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and other experts in the field.

Court ordered that after such exercise, JTRI Lucknow shall create appropriate standardized evaluation formats /templates containing all other relevant facts contemplated in Rule 4 of the POCSO Rules, 2020 and Rule 19 of the JJ Rules, 2016, and other relevant provisions of law.

The CWCs shall use the above-standardized lines of enquiries/templates for drawing up the CWC reports under the POCSO Act, 2012 read with POCSO Rules, 2020, court ordered. 

Court, however, clarified that apart from the above-standardized evaluation system/templates so created, the CWCs will be free to further enquire into any other relevant issues in the facts and circumstances of a case and as per law.

But, court added that CWCs while creating the report will have to be conscious of the scope and limitations of its jurisdiction. 

"The CWC report is not part of the investigations made by the police into the offences under Section 173 Cr.P.C. The report cannot be equated with the statements of the victim made under the relevant provisions of the CrPC. The CWC has to adhere to norms of legal propriety and act within the bounds of its jurisdiction in order to achieve its statutory purpose. The CWC acting in consonance with these tenets will sensitize the statutory authorities and the process of justice to the plight of victims and bring their rights to fruition," it said.

Court ordered the copy of the instant order to be placed before the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act Committee, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act Committee and the Director for consideration and appropriate action and before Judicial Training & Research Institute, Lucknow for compliance.

The order was passed in a bail application in a case where after lodging of the FIR and arrest of the accused persons, the victim, whose statements under Sections 161 and 164 had been recorded and a medical exam had been done which fully corroborated the prosecution story of abduction and rape, turned hostile.

 Court said that in these circumstances the implementation of the POCSO Act, 2012 and the role of the CWC reports in securing justice to child victims of sexual offences need to be examined.

Court highlighted that the CWC report available with the Prosecution did not depict examination of socio-economic circumstances of the victim and of the accused persons.

"The appointment of the support person in this case was not preceded by requisite enquiries and made in a mechanical manner. Support person did not send any report regarding the victim’s condition to the CWC at any stage. The mental condition of the victim after the sexual assault was not adverted to in the report," court pointed out. 

Court held that these shortcomings had far reaching consequences on the trial. Therefore, court issued a slew of directions to ensure that justice is truly secured to the child victims of POCSO Act offences.

Regarding the bail application, court noted that the accused was already on interim bail. He was facing trial under Sections 363, 366, 376D IPC and Section 5(g)6 of the POCSO Act.

While stressing that the trial in the matter was moving at a snail's pace and was not likely to conclude anytime in the near future, without making any observations on the merits of the case, court allowed the bail plea. 

Case Title: Siddhant @ Aashu v. State of UP and 3 Others