(POCSO) Investigation officer or SJPU to inform minor survivor’s parents if the accused files for bail: Karnataka High Court

The Karnataka High Court ruled that the investigation officer or Special Juvenile Police Units (SJPU) should inform the minor survivor’s parents if the accused files for bail.

Background 

The petitioners are stated to be mothers of children who have been subjected to sexual offences punishable under the POCSO Act, the petitioners being the complainants or informants in the complaints registered under the provisions of POCSO Act, the petitioners being the complainants or informants in the complaints registered under the provisions of the POCSO Act have gone through an harrowing time inasmuch as in the proceedings which had been initiated against the accused, the petitioners were not provided with an opportunity to object to the same and as such the accused having been granted bail without consideration of any objections that they had. It is with an intention that similar situations are not faced by the mothers who are the complainants or informants and/or other complainants and informants in POCSO matters that the present petition has been filed.

Arguments 

Advocate Rohan Kothari, appearing for the petitioners contended that POCSO Act is a special enactment for protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment, etc. which constitutes a heinous offence and in such circumstances, it is required that when a bail application of an accused is being considered, the complainants/victims and or caregivers of the victims be made aware of such an application being filed so as to  enable them to appear in the said proceedings and oppose application for bail.

Ms. Vani, Additional Government Advocate, argued that the State Authorities are issuing notices to the complainant in respect of the aforesaid offences and as such following the mandate of law. In view of the same, there may not be a requirement for issuance of any fresh directions. However, directions if any issued will be followed by the State and its authorities.

Decision 

The division bench of the Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, and Justice Suraj Govindaraj stated that the benefit of Article 21 of the constitution is not only available to the accused but also to the victims and their families of any criminal offence. For an orderly society to exist it is required that the victims of criminal offences, more particularly heinous offences have a say in the criminal prosecution of the accused.  

The court said that if a victim or complainant wants to and can effectively assist the prosecution, the same is required to be permitted, albeit with the caveat that the prosecutor would always be in charge of the prosecution and would be the deciding authority as regards the mode and manner of conducting of the prosecution. For this to happen it is essential that the complainant/Victim is aware of the proceedings in court.

The court directed that the Investigation officer or the SJPU shall inform the Victim’s parents/caregiver/guardian as also the legal counsel if appointed, about any application for bail or any other application having been filed by the accused or the prosecution in the said proceedings.

Case title: . Bibi Ayesha Khanum and Ors. v/s Union of India and  Ors.

Citation: WRIT PETITION NO.2318 OF 2022 (GM-POLICE)

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